Bulletin 8 from Michael Edwards, Managing Director

Bulletin 8 from Michael Edwards, Managing Director

Last Sunday’s announcement by Boris Johnson, whilst attempting to restart the economy somewhat, was however not all together great news for us in the travel industry generally. Introducing a mandatory 14 day quarantining for the foreseeable future for UK holiday makers returning from their trips is a major negative. There is also no specific support for our industry sector, despite it being one of the worst hit and the Foreign Office continues to advise against any leisure travel. The travel business remains challenging!

As mentioned last week, I can confirm we opened offices as planned on Wednesday this week and re-opened the phone lines. The office is set up to maintain social distancing and keep everyone safe. From the calls we have received, we know this has been appreciated by many of our customers. Thank you for not flooding the phones and continuing to email or use our chat service where possible.

Like previous weeks, in the Bulletin below I have updated you on where we are with the refunds due from the airlines. The GDS refunds are working well and to plan. However as stated, with many airlines, refunds having to be made via BSPLink are delayed and out of our control. To highlight the issue, since 15 March, our team at Aviate has raised 4,929 manual Refund Applications via BSPLink to a value of £3.5 million. Of these, despite our own prompt action, to date just 231 have been authorised by the various airlines and of which most of these funds are yet to be received by us. See section 2 for further detail…


REFUNDS - FLIGHTS

Again, I am pleased to confirm the current refund cycle is on schedule and that all due refunds (as per the table below) will have been transacted by Monday (18 May).  We are still getting queries about refunds that are not yet due, as per these timelines, and therefore can I please ask these dates are circulated within your teams.


 *We will need these clear funds from IATA/the airlines before processing your Refunds to you

As I have advised previously, those refunds which some airlines insist on being processed offline through IATA’s BSPLink will take significantly longer to be paid back. These airlines include: Air France-KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad, Emirates, Norwegian, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Oman Air, South African Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.

To outline the process for any who are unaware: an application has to be raised for each PNR, and then this has to be acknowledged and authorised by the airline against the related ticket. There is subsequently a further delay of approximately 1 month whilst the funds are released into our IATA BSP cycle. Laborious we know – and whilst we protest as best we can there is little we can do to accelerate this process. We are however committed to act swiftly and re-pay these to you as soon as we are in receipt of the funds.

As mentioned in my introduction, since 15 March, Aviate have raised 4,929 Refund Applications to a value of £3.5 million via BSPLINK. Of these just 231 (4.7%) only have been authorised of which most of these funds are yet to be received by us. We are hoping, as some weeks have now passed that we are closer to the dates we will begin to receive these in volume. We are expecting some early refund claims from Emirates next week and will get these to you as soon as possible within the cycle detailed in the table.



REFUNDS - GROUPS

Please ensure the timelines we have provided for Lime and Aviate are circulated with any relevant team members along with the following supporting notes:

  • Many airlines are forcing refunds offline via BSPLink so they can authorize them individually. This will significantly slow down the refund timeline. We estimate refunds made via BSPLink will take 10 to 12 weeks to be authorised and then be paid back to us. You can see a list if airlines and their refund methods here.
  • Groups’ refund policies and processes vary from airline to airline, and airlines have changed policies as the situation has developed. Your individual group Terms will have been confirmed to you at the point of group cancellation.
  • Deposits may be held by airlines in different formats (ie EMDs) and we have to apply for these offline directly to the airline.

Some airlines are not dealing with Group refunds currently, making it impossible to estimate timelines for these at all.

  • LIME BRITISH AIRWAYS GROUPS REFUND TIMELINE

Notes: This timeline covers all stages of Group bookings – deposited, full paid and ticketed.
Refunds applicable to the relevant commercial policy/T&C’s in place at the time of cancellation for refund values.

*Dates are based on BA payment for refunds and presume monies are refunded to Lime by BA in line with this cycle

  • AVIATE AIRLINE GROUPS REFUND TIMELINE (INC VAFS)


         

Notes: This timeline covers all stages of Group bookings – deposited, full paid and ticketed.
        Refunds which require airline authorisation (via BSPLink or other offline method) fall outside of this process.


        *Dates are based on IATA payments for GDS refunds and monies are refunded to Aviate by IATA in line with this cycle. BSPLink payments will take longer.


KEY AIRLINE NEWS

  • AIRLINK AND SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS REACH AGREEMENT

    At the time of distribution of the previous  Bulletin 7, SA Airlink was no longer accepting passengers issued on South African Airways tickets for an SA Airlink operated flight.

    South African Airlink (4Z) has since reached an agreement with South African Airways (SA) on the re-accommodation of bookings ticketed on South African Airways, but travelling on Airlink flights for future travel. The agreement currently applies to bookings ticketed after 6 December 2019. For more details please read here >

  • VIRGIN ATLANTIC REMOVE INTERLINE AGREEMENT WITH KULULA (MN)

    With immediate effect Virgin Atlantic have withdrawn their interline agreement with Kulula (MN). Virgin Atlantic will be offering alternative flying options if you have an affected booking in the coming weeks, based on priority of departure date.

  • AVIANCA VOLUNTARILY ENTERS CHAPTER 11
     
    Avianca has voluntarily filed reorganisation proceedings under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. The South American carrier has taken this action in order to protect the business, as they continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    A statement from Aviana clarified they will “continue to operate and continue to work with our partners and serve our customers during this process,” and, “expect to honour current contracts and continue to sell and distribute our products through all channels both direct and indirect.”.

PROTECTING TRAVEL PLANS WITH THESE AIRLINES

Whilst we are in full support of retaining each airline’s rightful bookings, and maintaining your customers’ preferred travel plans,
we recognise the uncertainty of the status of many services worldwide, and the lack of clarity about future services that this brings.

We would advise considering potential alternatives now for international and regional flights in situations such as these above, and making ‘reserve’ bookings where feasible.  Our Airline Team will continue to monitor developments closely and will offer updates in these bulletins, on our website, or by contacting you directly over individual bookings if any situation changes definitively.

Furthermore, our Customer Support team are on hand and happy to advise options for alternative flights or itineraries.
Please contact us via email where possible.


PHONE LINES AND OFFICE TEAM

In Bulletin 7 I informed you that a Customer Support team were to return to the office in order to reinstate our telephone support service, as that wasn’t attainable in a remote homeworking capacity. Thank you for keeping these lines clear of refund date queries to enable those of our partners who have urgent enquiries that are best resolved over the phone to reach us.




 

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