KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is concerned that passengers and travel agents are being short-changed by airlines who are reluctant to offer refunds due from flight cancellations as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
MATTA vice president air transportation Shazli Affuat Ghazali has urged airlines to make cash refunds as their top priority and not issue credit vouchers which would have little or no value should the airline become insolvent.
This week, IATA said the industry was experiencing a critical liquidity crisis and most airlines were spending more cash in reimbursing their passengers than they were receiving in new booking revenues.
“In this context, we believe the best answer for both airlines and travel agents is for regulators to ease requirements for cash refunds and allow airlines to issue vouchers instead,” IATA said.
MATTA remains unconvinced. “While they are being bailed out or given loans to resume operations post-pandemic, they must first pay out cash refunds to restore public confidence,” said Mr Ghazali.
“It is a matter of principle to return payments collected from customers for services not rendered due to the current extraordinary circumstances.”
“We are disappointed by the silence of the authorities that include the Ministry of Transport Malaysia (MOT) and Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM).
“One of MAVCOM’s functions is to provide a mechanism for protection of consumers and the Commission should have stepped forward to announce clearly what measures are in place or will be introduced for customers to get their money back.
“While it is painful enough for individual passengers to wait indefinitely for refunds, the agony is multiplied manifold among travel agents with angry customers constantly behind their back,” Mr Ghazali added.