By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

BUDGET carrier Cebu Pacific and Emirates, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, said they had settled 51% and 95%, respectively, of the refund requests from their customers.

“We continue to receive an unprecedented number of refund requests due to the flight cancellations brought about by this pandemic. To date, we have refunded over P2.6 billion in booking cancellations related to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), equivalent to 51% of refund requests received,” Candice A. Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice-president for marketing and customer experience, told BusinessWorld in a phone message last week.

In an e-mailed statement, Emirates said: “For customers in the Philippines who have purchased their tickets directly from us, we’ve already cleared nearly 95% of backlogged refund requests.”

The Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) said last week Cebu Pacific, operated by Cebu Air, Inc., and Emirates were among the top airlines with pending refunds.

“Emirates is committed to honouring refunds to our customers. We have authorised all refund requests from Philippine travel agent partners up till 31 July; and from 1 August, [we] have made it easier for them to process refunds for Emirates tickets themselves via the GDS (global distribution systems),” Emirates told BusinessWorld via e-mail.

Cebu Pacific’s Ms. Iyog also assured the budget airlines’ customers that it remains committed to complete pending refunds “as soon as possible.”

“We will provide updates to our passengers once their requests have been processed. We are currently working through refund requests filed in May,” she said.

“We continue to ask for your patience and understanding as we work on resolving this soonest. We know how difficult this crisis is for everyone, and we sincerely apologize for the delay,” Ms. Iyog added.

Cebu Pacific has said refunds may take up to six months to process from the time the request was filed.

“We thank our passengers for their support as we continuously work on enhancing our processes,” Ms. Iyog further said.

PTAA, which has 439 members, said travel agencies were keen on offering their services again, but they were waiting for airlines to provide full refunds for the canceled flights since March.

The government has allowed travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and related activities to resume operations at 50% capacity for areas placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) and at 100% capacity for areas placed under the modified GCQ (MGCQ).

The ban on non-essential foreign travels by Filipinos has been lifted.

Airlines still owe P315.55 million, said PTAA President Ritchie Tuaño.

“We want our member travel agencies to have the ability to immediately refund their clients, whose flights were canceled while at the same time, have enough flexibility to slowly resume operations even as the country is still dealing with the pandemic,” he added.