Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has voiced its dejection on Air India’s social media post as well as communications to travellers to book on their website and verify airfares with the airlines before booking with the agents. The airline has also stated that agents block the inventory on the GDS.
Writing to Minister of Civil Aviation, Mr Hardeep Singh Puri and CMD of Air India, Mr Rajiv Bansal, TAAI informed the National Carrier to withdraw the same.
Excerpts from the communication dated 30th July produced below:
“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.
We strongly condemn this and request you to withdraw the same.
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.
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”.
We demand and appeal a clarity be issued instantly in this regard, which should inform of malpractices and manipulations, but should ensure that the agent and customer have direct relationship in their conditions of additional services and charges being levied thereon for providing the same.”
Further on 5th August’20, Air India once again communicated adversely against booking through travel agents. We reproduce contents of communication dated 6th August once again to MoCA and Air India below:
Dated: 6th August, 20
“We refer to our letter dated 30th July’20 addressed to your goodselves.
It is surprising that no acknowledgement or action has been taken by Air India or MoCA to our appeal.
Further, 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.
At this juncture, where economies are trying to revive and come back on their feet, Air India continues to play monopolistic. After our repeated request to your good-selves, agents were permitted to book on the GDS, but now inventories have been blocked and selective sectors are only being permitted. This is totally unfair and biased.
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”.
When Air India’s systems are faulty and seats show unavailable within a minute of opening up, the travel agents are blamed !! Shocking ! Best route to escape is to transfer the blame on the travel agent. After a while or on the next day seats again re-appear only for sale on the web.
Yes, the travel agents block the seat on client instructions and are given a ticketing time limit to issue the ticket. Once the passengers/customer confirms the same, the tickets are issued. How can there be manipulation here? as names are not changed, dates are not changed. But the blame is on the Travel Agent.
We are exasperated and dejected on this attitude from the National Carrier – Air India who has created this mistrust and wrong perception amongst the travellers/customers.
This situation and crisis are well known to all and we need not elaborate more.
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.”