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Personal Travel Manager’s Urgent Plea for Collaborative Approach from Airline Sector

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The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the travel industry with an impact that is unprecedented, even for a sector that has endured more challenges than most in the past 20 years. On the frontline of the current crisis are the retail travel agents who were initially tasked with bringing their clients safely home and are now focused on managing the changes and cancellations to future travel plans, navigating a slew of policies that are constantly changing and differ widely across airlines.

One of those agents, TravelManagers’ Caroline Cox, has penned an open letter to the airline sector, calling for airlines to work collaboratively on streamlining and simplifying their policies and processes. The letter is published in full below and comes with the full support of TravelManagers’ National Partnership Office (NPO).

TravelManagers’ Chairman, Barry Mayo, says the letter from Cox perfectly encapsulates the difficulties imposed by a relentless flood of waivers, commercial policies, bulletins, exception policies and updates which airlines are producing in an attempt to manage the complicated task of unravelling the travel plans of millions of travellers.

“Caroline is a highly experienced travel professional who has been in the industry since 1973, but even agents with her level of expertise are feeling overwhelmed by the task of interpreting and acting upon the ever-changing policies of more than 20 different airlines,” Mayo explains.

Mayo emphasises that dealing with this situation is a challenge shared by the entire industry – corporate travel agents, leisure agents and home-based agents – and that all of them agree that the current approach is impractical.

“The COVID-19 crisis is requiring people to pull together in ways that would not previously have been thought possible. It’s time for the airlines to get on board and do the same.”

OPEN LETTER TO THE AIRLINES

We need a new strategy

The retail travel industry needs your help.  We ask that you consider getting together with airline colleagues to come up with a workable strategy to help better manage the current flood of Waivers, Commercial policies, Bulletins, Exception Policies, updates etc.

The airlines deserve much praise for what they have tried to achieve during this pandemic, and the distribution system is probably the least of their worries now. But… I cannot sit idly by and watch the impact on the health and wellbeing of people in our industry without at least trying to reach out to have some stability imposed, as we all work tirelessly to rebuild.

Personal Travel Manager and experienced industry veteran

I am reaching out to the policy makers to talk to industry leaders and your own teams to discuss the serious health impact that the above rules are having on them. The STRESS FACTOR almost outweighs the fear of what is ahead for us all over the next few months. This you have all unwittingly contributed to.

Consider how the distribution network is coping with the information overload, which comes in the form of daily waiver updates and hurriedly constructed policies that have not been tested and are therefore open to interpretation.  Consider the various ticket offices, BSP teams, and frontline staff who are trying to decipher the information.

We understand that you need to provide best option strategies for a quick recovery from COVID-19 and we will all be on the same page to ensure we do our part to help.

Please consider the benefits and incredible difference you could make by getting together to consider carefully a one-off extraordinary way to keep the change rules simple.

This is a once in a lifetime pandemic so let’s not make it any harder than it should be. Consider the following:

  • All tickets issued that clients were not able to avail because of COVID-19 can be rebooked for travel up to and including the anniversary of their original travel in 2021 with no waivers and no ADCOL.
  • A Pandemic Levy might be considered for travellers who want to set their own dates.
  • Reintroduce an MCO or adapt the EMD for the distribution system to be able to extend the validity of the ticket to the anniversary of original travel in 2021.
  • Think about the financial and health benefits for the entire industry that would stem from streamlining your approach:
  • Resources required to manage reconciliations now
  • Freeing up teams to handle the phones for other matters
  • Avoid COVID-19 related ADMs in 2020/21 and reduce the challenges they would bring
  • Free up resources to focus on planning for industry recovery
  • Consistency and trust for the entire distribution system
  • Simplification of waivers, bulletins, commercial policies – a one-off blanket waiver that covers all tickets issued within a designated period that allows clients to rebook without penalties
  • Outward display of empathy for travellers
  • Reduced workload and stress on the agency distribution network
  • Reduction in confusing and conflicting information given to travellers
  • Massive health benefits

You can make a difference – just keep it simple

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