Travel Agents Are The Biggest Victims Of Cancellations, Exclaims MATTA

KUALA LUMPUR, 8 March 2020 - The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is calling on major tourism service providers such as airlines and hotels to be fair to travel agents who are the true victims of the Covid-19 outbreak.

MATTA President Datuk Tan Kok Liang explains, “From late January, the coronavirus outbreak began to spread at an alarming rate and affected global travel with many tourists cancelling or postponing their holidays. In Malaysia, many customers have already paid for tour packages, especially from February to June, and travel agents in turn have made payments to airlines, hotels and other suppliers on behalf of their customers.”

“With the recent spate of cancellations outbound tour operators may be saddled with an estimated potential liability of RM 500 million collected from customers for tour packages departing from February. However, cancellation policies and decisions are made by the airlines and hotels and many customers are not aware that travel agents can only pass on to customers whatever refund or credit is being offered by airlines and hotels.”

“More than 22 European countries have now confirmed Covid-19 cases and the biggest notable casualty was the cancellation of ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show, which attracted more than 10,000 companies and organisations from 181 countries last year. Yet there has been no outcry for refunds from travel agents (who are customers themselves in this case) from all over the world who have already paid for the trip to Germany,” Tan said.

“In most cases, airlines and hotels do not offer refunds for cancellations, and any refunds given may be in the form of credit, which customers must use by booking a flight or room within a given time period determined by the airlines and hotels.”

“Consumers should instead negotiate with their travel agents for amicable solutions rather than waste resources pursuing legal action. Such actions are futile simply because local travel agents have disbursed money collected from customers to various suppliers and are unable to get a refund based on terms and conditions governing all affected parties. The crux of the issue is that cancellations were not forced onto customers. Instead customers were cancelling of their own accord due to fear of contracting Covid-19.”

“However, it is true that terms and conditions applicable for normal market conditions should not apply after the Covid-19 outbreak. Therefore, airlines and hotels should waive normal cancellation charges otherwise travel agents will suffer a double whammy. Customers who insist on full refunds are disregarding a global standard industry practice where payments must be made in advance to secure reservations and once made, any refunds will be subject to the cancellation policy of a particular supplier such as an airline, hotel or theme park.”

“Regrettably, MATTA has received complaints from travel agents concerning double standards practised by Air Asia which is not only unfair to travel agents but have also confused the public. This is because the budget airline is offering full or partial refunds to passengers that booked directly with them but not for travel agents that have placed group bookings. As a result, travel agents have been wrongly accused of cheating. It is time for Air Asia to stop discriminating against travel agents and not abuse its dominant position, which is against the Competition Act 2010.”

“Travel agents and tour operators are prepared to explain and assist the consumer, but the panic caused by the Covid-19 outbreak has also caused many customers, adamant in their demands for full refunds, to seek legal redress. Instead of being victimised, we hope airlines, hotels and the travelling public will treat travel agents caught in between with fairness”, concluded Tan.

President MATTA
Term 2019 – 2021

For further information, contact:
MATTA Communications Department, or 03-9222 1155