Travel Innovation Group Bulletin 6 from Michael Edwards, Managing Director - 29 April 2020
I am pleased to confirm, we will have achieved our target and initiated all refunds due to our customers by this Friday, 1 May. There have been hiccups along the way, but the team have worked tirelessly. We all know how important it is to repay the refunds received from the airlines as swiftly as possible and give you our tour operator customers, the assurance that we are doing what we can to support you and the wider industry. In case of any bank delays please check the receipt of funds in your bank account on Monday (credit card repayments will appear later). More details follow under section 2.
From Monday 4 May, we are preparing for the next (fourth) cycle of payments. Once completed, this will mean all refund requests received from you by 15 April, for all departure dates - and if received from the airlines to us - will be repaid by 18 May latest. Whilst we hope our Bulletins have been relevant and kept you in the loop on the refund status, we have nonetheless appreciated your patience. We are also aware many other consolidators are lagging somewhat with their refund schedule and indeed some are even prioritising the refunding of their own in-house package holidays ahead of providing refunds for flight bookings to tour operators and travel agents.
We also recognise other matters are frustrating, including the lengthy time for BSP link refunds to be actioned by many of the airlines, inflexible airline policies (though I have updates in section 3 on policy enhancements from our major partners), and our telephone system not being up and running. We are working hard to try and remedy situations generally and where necessary, to support you on an case-by-case basis. On the matter of our telephones, we hope to be back on the phones soon as we believe we will be able to do so. A definite date will be confirmed in our next Bulletin, but in the meantime we are available via online chat and email, and happy to arrange call-backs where you would prefer to speak with a member of our team.
REFUNDS STATUS UPDATE
We are pleased to see that our proactive stance in refunding money to a defined schedule has now been adopted by other consolidators. Further to my update on our own progress in the introduction, I thought it worthwhile to drop in our refund timeline once again by way of reminder:
Refund Timeline Table
Exceptions: As previously highlighted, if, due to the airline’s policy, a refund must be processed via the Offline BSP facility (this method is confirmed on your refund email confirmation) , we are in the hands of the airlines as to when we will receive these funds from them which will affect when we can make the payment back to you the tour operator. Unfortunately, these may take considerable time with some airlines estimating between 12 to 16 weeks.
Our Aviate Commercial team are however doing what they can and pressing these airlines to enact our refunds as a matter of priority. In truth, we are not sure how successful our protests will be but rest assured we are trying all avenues to achieve quicker refunds. For example, whilst Emirates latterly have introduced one of the more flexible Covid 19 policies, we have noted in the trade press, they are estimating their refunds may take until August to process. As a business we are acting swiftly to process all refund requests via the BSP link function so there is no undue extra delay from ourselves.
*We will need these clear funds from IATA/the airlines before processing your Refunds to you.
AIRLINE POLICY ENHANCEMENTS
Following lobbying and supplying live examples of the impact of restrictive policies, two of our major airlines have released enhancements to their policies:
EK refunds for cancelled inbound flight sectors
Emirates, in policy version 8, are now permitting fuller refunds of unused inbound flights where services have been cancelled when customers were still in resort. Refund calculations can now follow these guidelines:
1) Unused airport tax
2) Unused YQ even for non-refundable tickets
3) Residual base fare value after deduction of the applicable base OW fare for the journey travelled. If such applicable base OW fare is higher than RT base fare of the ticket then process 25% of the ticketed RT base fare.
British Airways extend Exchange Travel Credit criteria
British Airways announced they have extended their Book with Confidence policy that relates to bookings made on or before 13 March 2020. In summary, Exchange Travel Credits which can now be used for bookings originally due to travel up to 31 July, and can be redeemed for travel periods up to 30 April 2022. Please see the policy overview on Lime’s Coronavirus Support page and find links to British Airways full version.
AIR MAURITIUS VOLUNTARY ADMINISTRATION UPDATE
Air Mauritius is currently under voluntary administration. Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, the Mauritian national carrier wishes to give itself the necessary breathing space and set the conducive conditions for restructuring opportunities in order to stay afloat.
“At the outset, it is important to highlight that Air Mauritius has not filed for bankruptcy. Our objectives as Administrators are to safeguard the interests of the company and more importantly, reengineer its activities so that it can take off again once this crisis is over”, says Sattar Hajee Abdoula of the Administrators.
The administrators are currently working with the Management to ensure that Air Mauritius continues to operate and plan the phased resumption of operations.
We are currently clarifying ongoing policies and the effect on existing Air Mauritius bookings.
ENHANCED FLIGHTS SYSTEM FUNCTIONALITY
We’ve spent some time developing our Flights booking systems across the group, and recently released functionality which allows you to redeem your Exchange Travel Credits more efficiently online. Please allow me to reiterate the importance of reviewing the relevant airlines’ Covid 19 policy before you take any action to ensure you are managing each booking correctly.
This new function was explained to system users via Lime, Aviate and Virgin Atlantic Flightstore email distribution last week, however you can view a simple ‘How to’ guide explaining how to use the new function here >.
KEY TOPICS FOR BULLETIN 7
- An update on our telephone reconnection plan