Airlines issue travel vouchers to avert refunds

HARD hit by loss of business due to Covid-19 induced travel restrictions, airlines are issuing travel vouchers to passengers who purchased advance tickets and encouraging them to reschedule their flights instead of cancelling.

A number of airlines have posted on their online platforms or websites while some have contacted passengers who booked with them before March when most of the flights were suspended, advising them to re-book for future using the same tickets.

Some of the airlines are offering vouchers of the same value with the ticket held by the passengers for future use.

Aviation is one of the sectors worst affected by the global pandemic with revenue losses estimated at around more than US$200 billion this year.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated a US$23 billion potential revenue loss by carriers in Africa and Middle East, with Middle East expected to lose US$19 billion and Africa US$4 billion this year. Aviation experts fear some airlines might collapse due to liquidity challenges if they refund passengers.

Air Zimbabwe is one of the carriers that have encouraged passengers to redeem their tickets at a later date.

“We have advised our passengers about the option of rebooking for future travel using their tickets as we continue to monitor the guidelines on the lifting of travel restrictions by authorities,” said the airliner’s public relations and corporate communications officer, Ms Firstme Vitori.

The British Airways (BA), its partner, Comair, which also operates and South African Airways (SAA) are some of the international carriers that fly into Zimbabwe and have appealed to travellers to reschedule their flights by re-booking using the same tickets.

“Persons who have purchased a or British Airways (operated by Comair) flight ticket for a departure between 14 March and 31 October 2020 with ticket number starting with 161 should complete and submit the customer election form.

“Persons who have directly purchased their ticket from Comair channels should keep the value of the un-flown flight booking such that the value remains valid until 31 October 2021 and can be used to make a future booking with Comair, subject to availability and difference in rates, fares and taxes,” posted Comair on its website.

The airliner also offered passengers an option of becoming creditors for the company and can claim the value of the un-flown booking in terms of the airliner’s rescue plan subject to approval or forfeit the tickets.

BA also posted on its website announcing availability of “a flexible business rescue change policy” and has encouraged passengers who bought tickets starting in March to re-book their travel until April 2022 as the tickets will remain valid.

The airline is also giving vouchers of the same value with tickets bought for use by passengers for future booking applicable to bookings made from March for travel up to December 31 this year.

Aviation executive Ms Winnie Muchanyuka, who is also South African Airways country manager for Zimbabwe, said airlines and IATA are encouraging passengers to postpone their journeys for later rather than demand refunds.

“While airlines have different refund policies, what we have noted is that where outright cash refunds are not possible, airlines are either allowing passengers to postpone for future dates when operations resume or they are preserving value in the form of travel vouchers, which again passengers can redeem for flights when operations resume,” said Ms Muchanyuka.

“Airlines are heavily impacted due to lack of revenue and demand for refunds will worsen the liquidity crisis they are facing and may even lead to collapse.”

Hotels are also encouraging clients to reschedule than demand refund, according to Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chair, Mr Anald Musonza. —

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