The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says it may grant extensions to the deadline for payments to its electronic billing system BSP (billing and settlement plan) for travel agencies when necessary, due to the impact the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is having on travel.
Responding to a request by three Greek travel sector bodies, IATA said that it would assess the situation of travel agents “on an individual basis and where necessary” and will see to grant extensions to those that cannot fulfil their remittance payment either fully or partially, by the remittance date as indicated in the BSP calendar.
The deadline for payments to the BSB is Thursday, April 2.
Last week, the Greek travel sector bodies Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourist Agencies (HATTA), Greek Union of Air Travel Agencies (PETAGA) and Macedonia-Thrace Travel Agents Association had requested from IATA for the deadline of the BSP payments to be extended for April 16, due to decreases in the cash flows of travel agencies due to the Covid-19-related cancellations.
Airlines are withholding refunds
According to the Greek travel bodies, airlines arbitrarily are not following the normal refund procedure through GDSs and are withholding funds from customers and travel agents.
If airlines do not follow the automatic refund process travel agencies will be unable to refund customers.
“These funds are not safe in the event of airlines bankruptcy which is not an unlikely event given the current situation,” HATTA, PETAGA and the Macedonia-Thrace Travel Agents Association said in their official letter to IATA.
However, IATA said that for the time being, there is no agreement to formally delay remittance days across all markets to all travel agents.
“Τhis remains an individual assessment based on the situation of each agent and market,” IATA’s country manager for Greece and Cyprus, George Mamalakis, informed the Greek travel bodies in a letter.
According to Mamalakis, the association is working on a one-to-one basis with airlines to try and understand better their current situations and work with them in getting through the “turbulent period”.
He added that airlines have proactively asked IATA to better support them in managing refund applications as they come through so as to speed up the process in supporting the travel agency community.
“The IATA team is exploring the possibilities,” Mamalakis said.