With low cost carrier (LCC) Go First joining the list of airlines becoming insolvent, Indian travel agents are becoming increasingly concerned at yet another airline abruptly ceasing operations.
Earlier this month, Go First declared bankruptcy and cancelled all flights for the peak summer travel season, leaving many travellers stranded and worrying about refunds.
On May 2, the Wadia Group-backed airline voluntarily filed for bankruptcy at the Delhi bench of the National Company Law Tribunal, citing issues with aircraft engines made by Pratt & Whitney.
“Many travellers book complete packages from travel agents that include air tickets. When a carrier decides to suddenly cancel their flights, we face many difficulties from changing the itinerary to securing refunds. While an airline takes a very long time to process the refund, consumers expect an agent to process the same immediately,” said Varun Gupta, partner, Travelz Factorry.
According to Gupta, many agents have lost “big money” due to the closures of Kingfisher and Jet Airways in the past, and now with Go First.
“There are travel agencies who have pre-blocked a large number of seats on Go First and are now wondering how much time it will take to receive refunds,” added Gupta.
Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India recently met with Indian minister of civil aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia, to apprise him about the various challenges emerging from the sudden cancellation of all flights by Go First.
“There is a need for a regulation to be adopted by all the airlines to implement insurance coverage on the tickets so that consumers, as well as travel agents, are protected when an airline suddenly decides to cancel its flights,” said Mayal.
The Outbound Tour Operators of India (OTOAI) has also written to Scindia seeking his intervention to safeguard the interests of travel agents and consumers.
“Providing refunds are not a solution. Most of the time, multiple bookings are involved in one trip which are all severely hampered if a flight is cancelled. Airlines should be made responsible to help make alternate travel arrangements for customers and not just give a credit note or refund,” said Riaz Munshi, president, OTOAI.