The Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) on Wednesday “strongly urged” airlines to provide full refunds for canceled flights since March when the government imposed travel restrictions as a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

As of September 2020, the estimated pending refunds among PTAA members totaled PHP315.55 million, based on the association’s “Outlook Survey”. But with only close to half the members taking part in said study, PTAA President Ritchie Tuaño said the amount due is expected to be still on the high side, especially on domestic ticketing.

“Although we relatively have a good assessment on where we are in terms of the pending refunds, we will go through again with those who have not answered the survey to get the complete outlook,” he said.

Tuaño also asked concerned travelers who have yet to receive their refunds for understanding.

“Although travel agencies have been moved to Category III status, they might still be cautious in resuming operations until such time there is reasonable demand for travel that will allow them to sufficiently cover overhead cost of their operations,” he said.

Citing the survey, PTAA said the top five airlines with pending refunds are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, Emirates, and All Nippon Airways. There are 35 others with pending refunds.

“Considering that three of the top five airlines that have yet to provide refunds fly the domestic route, it gives us pause to evaluate the pending refunds further. We want our member travel agencies to have the financial capacity to resume their operations normally,” Tuaño said.

Airline refunds from canceled flights over the last seven months have been coming in trickles but the PTAA would continue to pressure them so that travel agencies can refund their respective clients, he added.

The survey pointed out that 74 percent of their member travel agencies are willing to open when there is enough business to sustain operations while 84 percent are laying the groundwork for contactless transactions.

Furthermore, 87 percent of the member travel agencies said they will again offer all their services, 71 percent believe they will benefit from the travel bubbles, and 85 percent will change their pricing strategy.

“We want our member travel agencies to have the ability to immediately refund their clients whose flights were canceled while at the same time have enough flexibility to slowly resume operations even as the country is still dealing with the pandemic,” Tuaño said.

Aside from the travel refunds, the PTAA has been working for its members to gain immediate access to the financial assistance and soft loans as provided in Bayanihan 2. (PNA)