Authorities Slammed for Inaction Against Airlines Refusing to Refund Cancelled Flights

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The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) has voiced its disappointment with the authorities for their silence on fare refund issues faced by travel agents and passengers of cancelled flights due to Covid-19.

Najjua Zulkefli/TMI

In a statement, Matta vice-president Shazli Affuat Ghazali said the Transport Ministry (MOT) and the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) should make clear what measures are in place or will be introduced for customers to get their money back.

“One of Mavcom’s functions is to provide a mechanism for protection of consumers.

“MOT must take into cognisance that airlines are the first in the long line of supply chains and every action taken by them will ripple across the entire tourism industry,” he said.

Shazli said the airlines’ top priority should be making cash refunds to customers instead of issuing credit notes, which may have little or no value if they become insolvent.

“Airlines should give full refund for payments made by passengers and travel agents without applying standard terms and conditions, which are applicable during normal times but not in a pandemic.

“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.”

Matta said it has been normal practice for airlines to provide such refunds after major but localised disasters, and this practice should continue along with established precedents in dealing with this pandemic

“It is a matter of principle to return payments collected from customers for services not rendered due to the current extraordinary circumstances.

“What the country needs now is strong and decisive leadership to resolve the issue,” Shazli said.

He said although it is painful enough for individual passengers to await their refunds for an indefinite period of time, the real agony is much greater among travel agents who have to answer to constant pressure by angry customers.

According to Mavcom, there have been about 14 million flight cancellations by both Malaysian and foreign carriers for the period between January and December in addition to further seat reductions of 15% for domestic routes and 20% for international routes. – TMI