Jyoti Mayal, President, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI),
shares why IATA holds little or no relevance for travel agents today, when it should really be the agents’ mouthpiece.
After making a series of representations to different ministries, Jyoti Mayal says that the challenges are only growing for travel agents. “For us, the challenges are growing in terms of doing business. For existing issues, we are in continuous dialogue with IATA, MoCA and airlines regarding refunds because the amounts are huge. In fact, more than 50 per cent of the money blocked with the airlines belongs to the agents. In our country, we have a huge credit system and hence, we keep educating our members to look at this for the future,” she opines.
Claiming that the industry is unsystematic, Mayal says, “In the last 10 years, the industry hasn’t really developed to be a robust industry in the right format. That’s why we are crying today for refunds. Credit shells are not helpful and our ‘upload’ money with LCCs is not being refunded.”
In this scenario, Mayal claims that IATA has no relevance for agents. “When travel agents are giving money and bank guarantees to one body, i.e. IATA, then it should be our mouthpiece. IATA should be the one protecting us, otherwise they don’t have relevance. This way, the only relevance they have is the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP), which is the money they are taking from us. If IATA continues to be this way, they will certainly lose relevance. In that case, we will start negotiating with airlines separately. We will take the call that we don’t need an IATA and we want to negotiate and talk to the airlines separately,” she claims.
Adding further, she says, “If we pay one rupee less to IATA, we are branded as defaulters. If the airlines don’t pay, shall we also brand them as defaulters and bar them from doing business? We wrote to the IATA DG even before the lockdown that we are fearing no refunds, but nothing happened. In fact, we recently got a letter from IATA that the refunds we will be getting for those stuck in Jet Airways will be 8 per cent of the amount. What is the use of IATA if things like these happen?”
On the other hand, Mayal has been in constant touch with Ministry of Civil Aviation also regarding refunds. “MoCA has been trying to play a very balanced role and hearing us out. We have made the bridge strong with them and they consider us as part of the aviation industry now,” she informs.
Booking repatriation flights
Regarding the issue of agents not being able to book repatriation flights, Mayal says, “We have been working very closely with the national airline, but the agents were kept at bay when it came to booking the Vande Bharat flights. This was the time when business was limited, but the few tickets agents could have done, would have given a boost to their morale towards revival. However, with this happening and airlines going direct, we are shaken even more. I think all the repatriation flights should come into the GDS. They couldn’t do it till now, because initially many processes, countries and ministries were involved. Now that they are established, I am sure they will open it to us. This is the time the agents also need support of the airlines. The government has to be the bridge between us.” Mayal also had a meeting with Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog. Sharing details about the same, she says, “We wanted to discuss a broader aspect of how our money can be protected. We’ve asked for remuneration, as now there is a capping of fares, and that credit cards be allowed.”