Working part time through the Government furlough scheme during the pandemic has really brought home to me how much things have changed in the world of airfares and especially managing existing tickets that need exchanged or refunded as each airline has had different policies and these change on an incredibly regular basis. Despite my high level of knowledge of how airlines manage tickets, it has been really difficult to keep on top of all the airline policies, what each one is doing differently and how this impacts customers’ existing tickets that had previously been booked and issued, and now need changes made or a refund applied for.
In many cases, fare rules are being waived depending on the date of issue of the ticket meaning that there could be a variety of policies to wade through to find the absolutely correct policy as often the newer policies over-write any previous ones, so an archive of policies has been needed. In addition to the actual change policy, some airlines have been offering “incentives” to customers to take a voucher with added value rather than receiving a cash refund. This obviously helps with the airlines’ cash flow, but this in itself causes many complications to the TMC and traveller – the expiry of the original vouchers may have already been extended as Covid-19 still keeps travel to a minimum whereas it was expected to have disappeared a year on from its arrival. In addition, the date of the original ticket may now be 12 months since booking and for most airlines, once the 12-month period is exceeded, there are all sorts of added complexities to how the ticket can be accessed and managed, especially if the ticket finally needs to be refunded.
Just how do travel agents actually navigate through all these administrative complexities, especially when they may be working part-time (eg furlough) or working from home full time with few colleagues to provide their input and guidance? The answer to this question is exactly where Focus adds its value to our TMC Partners – we have been busier than ever building online training modules (in conjunction with our GDS Partners) for consultants providing refresher or reminder information. In addition, we have built summary documents to ensure consultants have policy change information at their fingertips in one document but in chronological order as changes have been implemented by each airline. Whether our Partners’ consultants have been working full or part time or on furlough throughout the pandemic, there is information and training available for everyone to benefit from.
This is something that I feel very passionate about as once travel starts to pick up, there will be a plethora of tickets each needing unique servicing requirements (eg cancellations, refunds, rebookings, voucher exchanges etc), and with our portfolio of learning modules, life will become massively easier for the TMC’s consultants, and their customer will have a much more seamless service where they should never know too much about the complexities behind the scenes within the TMC’s own environment.