Scottish agents have appealed to the Chancellor for help to save the industry after Foreign Office advice against travel indefinitely prompted a “frenzy of concerns”.
In the latter the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) tells Rishi Sunak that “critical measures are urgently needed to protect and save the travel industry”.
The association demanded that airlines are made to adhere to EU261 rules governing cancelled flights and that the Package Travel Regulations on refunds are relaxed to October 31.
Joanne Dooey, President of the SPAA, said Foreign Office announcement recommending no-one travels for the foreseeable future has sent customers into a “frenzy of concerns over their future travel arrangements throughout and is causing mass cancellations rather than re-booking”.
Dooey added owners and directors of member companies are now working in isolation having furloughed their staff to protect them.
And she said they are facing a “torrent of contact by email and phone from their leisure and corporate clients” and the tasks they are carrying out are “time consuming, potentially contentious and non-revenue generating”.
The SPAA issued a plea that all staff who have been furloughed at 80% of their salary be allowed to work for the other 20% of their hours.
The association said: “This is absolutely vital for all our members to enable them to either process refunds, re-book holidays and repatriate clients.”
The SPAA said the key challenge for many travel agencies is cash flow problems “due to the pressure that agencies are under for cash refunds for cancelled holidays from leisure customers and for unused airline tickets for business travellers”.
Dooey said: “Media reports are putting pressure on agents to refund a customer within 14 days. However, airlines and tour operators are compelling agents to get customers to accept a credit note for future travel to save their own businesses.
“Airlines are claiming that they will collapse as they don’t have the cash flow position to make all these refunds. This leaves the agents in the untenable position of having to pay the customers from their own negative bank balances.”
The SPAA is petitioning the government to ensure airlines comply with regulation EU261 on delayed or cancelled flights, citing that the US Government has stepped in to influence American Airlines to give cash refunds.
“We’re asking that the Package Travel Regulations are relaxed in terms of the timescale for a refund and the full protection of the customer’s money under the Atol scheme until at least October 31, 2020.
“In addition, the payment date for holiday balances to be paid should be amended to 28 days before travel until July 31.”
The SPAA also asked the chancellor to extend the Business Scheme to include business travel agencies which are being expected to continue to operate in a zero-revenue climate for at least the next six months.
The association wants this scheme to be extended for at least a further three months until August 31.
Dooey added: “Travel agents are part of the retail sector but are not being recognised as such by all councils administering this scheme.
“Even with staff furloughing, travel agencies face large monthly operational costs. Even though their store fronts are closed, they are still having to pay utility bills.
“I am appealing to the Chancellor on behalf of our members to save our industry and the livelihoods of our members and their staff.”