WITH staff shortages causing mayhem at airports all over the world, the US Department of Transport (DOJ) is proposing to bolster travel confidence by ensuring refunds are more accessible for consumers through a new set of travel regulations.
However the slated raft of changes will not just hold airlines more accountable for issuing refunds in cases of scuttled travel plans, they will also target American travel agents, with the DOJ arguing both carriers and air ticket sellers are equally culpable in returning cash to the pockets of affected travellers.
The travel body announced that it was proposing to codify its “long-standing interpretation that it is an unfair business practice for a US air carrier or a ticket agent to refuse to provide requested refunds to consumers when a carrier has cancelled or made a significant change to a scheduled flight”.
But closer to home, AFTA CEO Dean Long criticised the proposal as a “worrying development” that demonstrated the lack of knowledge that still exists at the regulatory level around the world.
“Where the ultimate supplier has been provided with the payment, it is their responsibility to hold these funds, if they do not provide full refunds in accordance to their terms and conditions they are responsible for returning the funds,” Long said.
“This type of regulation demonstrates the ever-growing importance of the advocacy work AFTA undertakes to ensure the regulatory remains open and fair for all stakeholders,” he added.
While there has been no known chatter in Australia to implement a similar set of rules, Long reiterated the importance of ensuring politicians and regulators fully understand the intricacies of the travel ecosystem and the pressure Aussie agents are under – especially during the fraught era of pandemic-impacted travel.
“AFTA is not aware of any plans in Australia to follow the USA , but our efforts in the last 30 months in educating state, territory and federal governments on our process will need to continue to ensure these types of ideas do not gain traction in Australia,” Long said.
The US proposal will be presented to stakeholders later this month, and will also seek to hold agents responsible for providing non-expiring travel vouchers or credits to consumers when flights are unable to be taken due to “a serious communicable disease”.
American travellers will still need to provide evidence to support their assertion of entitlement to a travel voucher, credit, or refund provided under the proposed changes.