By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
MOST travel agencies are eager to offer their services again, but they still await airlines to provide full refunds for the canceled flights since March, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) said.
Citing the survey it conducted in September, PTAA , which has 439 members, said 87% of its member travel agencies intend to offer all their services again while 71% believe they will benefit from the travel bubbles.
However, 74% of them will only open “when there is enough business to sustain operations,” the association said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.
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.
But travel agencies “might still be cautious in resuming operations until such time there is reasonable demand for travel that will allow them to sufficiently cover the overhead cost of their operations,” PTAA President Ritchie Tuaño said.
“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.
Mr. Tuanio also noted many of the airlines that have yet to provide refunds fly the domestic routes.
“It gives us pause to evaluate the pending refunds further. We want our member travel agencies to have the financial capacity to resume their operations normally,” he explained.
Mr. Tuanio said that based on the group’s survey last month, airlines still owe P315.55 million.
“But with only close to half the members taking part [in the survey], the amount due is expected to be still on the high side, especially on domestic ticketing,” he noted.
Philippine Airlines did not give a comment on Wednesday, but in its statement on Sept. 19, it said: “We have so far refunded about 80% of the more than US$300 million (P15.9 billion) COVID-related refund requests.”
It said it had canceled 60,000 flights since March, affecting more than 1.3 million passengers.
Cebu Pacific has yet to issue a new statement on the matter.
Candice A. Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice-president for marketing and customer service, said in a statement last month that the high number of flight cancellations and refund requests continued to rise and pile up day by day.
The unprecedented volume had caused a backlog in the budget carrier’s system, she said, adding that refunds would take about five months from the date the requests were filed.
Philippines AirAsia and Emirates were also asked to comment.