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IAAI’s National Council Meeting emphasis on collaboration & acknowledges industry’s resilience

The recent National Council Meeting hosted by the IAAI (IATA Agents Association of India) at The Hotel Park Central, Kochi, marked a pivotal moment for travel agents. In the wake of post-COVID challenges, the industry gathered to address critical issues, emphasising unity and collaboration.

Under the guidance of National President Biji Eapen, industry leaders, including General Secretary Aruna Shetty, Treasurer Devender Ghule, Director Manu T. Nair and national coordinator Johnson M.P, convened to discuss challenges, adaptations during the pandemic, and IAAI’s proactive role in supporting agents.

Eapen addressed the challenges the industry faced during the pandemic. Despite physical constraints, the IAAI maintained constant communication through online web meetings. The loss of Ramani from Chennai was acknowledged, highlighting his significant contributions to the industry.

IAAI’s Proactive Role: Eapen emphasised IAAI’s active involvement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The association assisted agents in dealing with airline operations, ticket cancellations, and flight disruptions. The establishment of the “Passengers Rights Forum” played a vital role in supporting affected individuals.

Legal Initiatives and Advocacy: Eapen acknowledged the assistance of Adv Ajith Marath in becoming a party to the Supreme Court case filed by Adv Jose Abraham of Pravasi Legal Cell. This legal action focused on securing refunds for air tickets due to flight cancellations or operational challenges. Eapen commended IAAI’s proactive stance in advocating for the inclusion of “Force Majeure” clauses concerning airline operations, a move that garnered support from other associations.

Historic Milestone for Travel Agents: A landmark moment unfolded as leading travel agencies and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) were collectively summoned for the first time. The meeting’s emphasis on industry collaboration and unity marks a turning point in the history of travel agents, setting the stage for mutual support, shared platforms, and a collective effort to navigate challenges and foster growth in the ever-evolving travel landscape.

Industry Collaboration and Unity: Responding to President Eapen’s call for unity, industry veterans stepped forward to pledge their support. Figures such as Thomas Mathai of Riya Travels & Riya Connect, Biju Varghese of AL Hind Travels & Online Portal, Mohd Shib of Creative Travel Group & Hajj Packages, Christopher Mendes of Santa Monica Tours and Study Abroad, and Ummer Karuthedath of Arabian Travels & Hajj Packages volunteered to share their platforms and support all IAAI member agents. Their commitment extends to various domains, including ticketing, tour packages, hajj packages, and study-abroad educational programs.

A significant part of the meeting centered around fostering collaboration and eradicating discrimination among various segments of the travel fraternity. The collective commitment was made to share and support one another in a unified effort, recalling the spirit of collaboration witnessed from 2006 to 2009.

To ensure the success of this collaborative initiative, a sub-committee from different regions was proposed. This committee would oversee and support the efforts, ensuring a well-coordinated and effective approach to benefit all IAAI member agents.

Discussion on GDS Companies and NDC Providers: A detailed discussion ensued regarding the facilities provided by Global Distribution System (GDS) companies and New Distribution Capability (NDC) providers. IAAI, as a founding supporter of Verteil Technologies Private Ltd, sought a special scheme exclusively for its members.

Professional supports: In a move towards greater professionalism, Adv Ajith Marath and Anil Sreenivasan of AURGRF (Airline Users Rights and Grievances Redressal Forum) pledged full support and guidance to IAAI members. Their commitment extends to guiding IAAI member agents, ensuring to support their valued customers in the event of any difficulties or deficiencies encountered during their flights.

Speedwings Aviation Academy, a leading provider of IATA dangerous goods training, pledged support to all member agents. The academy committed to equipping them with knowledge on “restricted or prohibited items in passenger baggage,” aiming to enhance professionalism and ensure a hassle-free travel experience.

Unified Front for Positive Industry Changes: The session concluded with a urging for travel trade associations to unify under a cohesive front, aiming to reinstate our entitlements for the legal commission as outlined in the DGCA Order on March 5, 2010, and the subsequent directive from the Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, dated September 16, 2013, which reaffirms the commission. The collaborative effort aims to bring about positive changes in the industry, emphasizing the collective influence to shape a more resilient and equitable travel landscape.
In response to the government’s “Dark Patterns” guidelines, the IAAI management appointed a committee to study implications, emphasizing a commitment to transparency and fairness in the travel industry.

Commitments and Reorganization: All National Management Committee (NMC) members expressed unwavering commitment to exerting additional effort for the betterment of members. Plans were announced to reorganize the Mumbai Committee and open a new chapter in Pune, with Secretary Arun Shetty and Director Devendra Ghule taking the lead.

The meeting concluded with a call for travel trade associations to unite, plans for committee reorganization, and a commitment to transparency.

Representatives from various airlines engaged with members, addressing concerns, and affirming full support for IAAI initiatives. The meeting ended with an entertaining segment and a cocktail session, fostering a spirit of collaboration and unity among industry stakeholders.

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