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Friday, 07 August, 2020, 12 : 30 PM [IST]

TAAI raises objections over AI asking passengers to verify airfares before booking with agents

The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has voiced its dejection on Air India’s repeated social media posts as well as communications to travellers to book on their website to verify airfares with the airline before booking with the agents. The national carrier has also stated that agents block the inventory on the GDS. 

In a strongly worded letter addressed to the Minister of Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri and CMD of Air India, Rajiv Bansal, TAAI has asked the national carrier to withdraw the same. 

Referring to Air India’s communication on July 30, TAAI said, “We refer to the circular issued by Air India to travel agents as well as to media, including posts on social media, informing travellers to not pay more than the fare mentioned on the website of Air India, if booked through the travel agents. 

“It shall be appreciated that travel agents members guide and update the passengers on all formalities, assist in documentation, filing complicated declarations, assist in updating on registration on AI website and also provide allied services to travellers, update of validity of visas and visa categories permitted, etc.,” TAAI said.  

Sirs, our member agents provide services to the traveller/customers, who feels secure by dealing with us. “During these pandemic and testing times, our trade is the most impacted, with all airlines, including Air India not refunding the amounts of tickets for services not rendered. For over 4 months the refunds are pending and the travellers are chasing our member agents to refund their monies. After our multiple requests to your goodselves, the same has begun but still the process is terribly slow. We have never blamed or criticised the airline or their practices. We also understand that the airline too is facing a cash crunch but with no clarity from the government and the national flag bearer, this had become out of control. We have been in constant touch with MoCA/Air India management on a regular basis and such communications are demeaning to our member agents in the trade who you call “Travel Partners”. 

The oldest trade association has demanded clarity on the issue “to ensure that the agent and customer have direct relationship in their conditions of additional services and charges being levied thereon for providing the same.” 

TAAI laments that Air India keeps demeaning its accredited agents on social media and through other channels of circulation to the general public and travellers. “We understand the message very clearly that agents are not wanted. It is well understood and a fact, that agents not only provide service of booking the air ticket but also update to the travellers/customers on the procedures, documentation, visa formalities and guide the passenger. Air India call centres and ticketing offices are unable to cope with the load of the booking and are not updated on the other procedures and are unable to guide the passengers. “

During these times of crisis rather than supporting the agent, whom Air India refers to as “Travel Partner”, who ease the burden of the airline in managing its sales and distribution, the airline management is outright set to demean, malign and insult the accredited member travel agent, who have always supported the national carrier through thick and think over decades. This is totally uncalled for. We are pained to say that “Air India Plays Dirty”, TAAI said.. 

 “All we would once again urge you is to ensure a fair playing field to member travel agents, who run establishments-thereby supporting employment, promote your airline – enabling your sales, place financial securities with IATA to obtain ticketing authorities with your airline – protection against default, pay taxes on their earnings-supporting the economy and trade of the country. We once again request you to ensure that accredited member travel agents are giving the due respect and permitted to promote and sell airline seats using the GDS on all sectors that are being operated by Air India, under the Vande Bharat Mission, to and from India.”

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