Issue cash refunds for flights cancelled due to Covid-19, Matta tells airlines

Matta says it is concerned that many passengers and travel agents are not getting refunds for flight cancellations.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) today urged airlines to prioritise cash refunds for flight cancellations as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its vice-president, Shazli Affuat Ghazali, said there were concerns that many passengers and travel agents were not getting such refunds.

“Airlines should not issue credit notes which may have little or no value should they go insolvent.

“It is a matter of principle to return payments collected from customers for services not rendered due to the current extraordinary circumstances,” he said in a statement.

Shazli said airlines should give full refund on payments made by passengers and travel agents without applying the standard terms and conditions in view of the outbreak.

He also said airlines should not differentiate between group bookings for Group Inclusive Tour (GIT) and individuals travelling as Free Independent Travellers (FIT).

The same treatment, he argued, would hasten refunds across the board and recovery post-Covid-19.

Shazli said cash refunds would help restore public confidence in an airline, and warned that withholding them from travel agents and passengers would not augur well for the tourism industry.

“It could trigger unnecessary lawsuits,” hje said.

He went on to express disappointment with the transport ministry and the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom).

He said the commission should have announced measures for customers to get their money back, adding it was “painful” for individual passengers to wait indefinitely for refunds, while “the agony is multiplied manifold among travel agents”.

He said the transport ministry must take into consideration that airlines were the first in the long line of supply chains and every action taken would cause ripples across the tourism industry.

Matta, he said, wanted the ministry to announce several directives, namely, that normal cancellation and rebooking charges would not apply until the end of the pandemic; granting customers the option for cash refunds or available credit to be used within three years; and refunds for flight cancellations to be paid in full, including ancillary fees.