Airlines pressed to refund hundreds of millions in unused airfare pending since March

By: Daxim Lucas - Inquirer | October 21,2020 - 04:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines — The umbrella organization of the country’s largest travel agencies on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, urged airlines to expedite the refund of hundreds of millions worth of unused airfare that have remained pending since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) said full refunds are now even more important after the government gave the green light to the resumption of international leisure travel and the reopening of travel firms.

According to, PTAA president Ritchie Tuaño, travel agencies have at least P315.5 million worth of pending refunds from airlines, based on a recent association survey conducted late last month.

But with only half of the group’s members taking part, the actual amount due is expected to be substantially higher, especially if domestic ticketing sales are included in the tally.

According to the survey, the top five airlines with pending refunds are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Emirates, and All Nippon Airways. There are 35 airlines with pending refunds.

“Considering that three of the top five airlines that have yet to provide refunds fly the domestic route, it gives us pause to evaluate the pending refunds further,” the association chief said. “We want our member travel agencies to have the financial capacity to resume their operations normally.”

“Although we relatively have a good assessment on where we are in terms of the pending refunds, we will go through again with those who have not answered the survey to get the complete outlook,” Tuaño said.

“We continue to ask for the public’s understanding on their refunds,” he said. “Although travel agencies have been moved to Category III status, they might still be cautious in resuming operations until such time there is reasonable demand for travel that will allow them to sufficiently cover overhead cost of their operations.”

He said refunds from canceled flights over the last seven months have been coming in trickles, but the association will continue to press airlines to address the issue so that travel agencies can return them to their respective clients.

The survey revealed that 74 percent of travel agencies only intend to reopen when there is enough business to sustain operations, and that 84 percent are now laying the groundwork for contactless transactions.

Furthermore, 87 percent of the member travel agencies said they will again offer full services, 71 percent believe they will benefit from the travel bubbles, and 85 percent will change their pricing strategies.

“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,” Tuaño said.

Aside from the travel refunds, the PTAA has been working for its members to gain immediate access to the financial assistance and soft loans as provided in the latest economic stimulus law.

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