“As we enter the fifth week of lockdown, our minds are focused not just on how we withstand this crisis, but how we recover from it.
For many years, the business travel sector has oiled the wheels of the UK economy, enabling British businesses to travel, meet, build vital trade links and trigger exports worth more than £100 billion every year. And it is the business travel sector that will be a vital enabler as the UK economy seeks to recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
For that to happen, collaboration is absolutely critical – up and down supply chains, sharing the pain between companies and sectors to ensure we all have the ability to emerge from this.
One key area in which collaboration is crucial is that of refunds. In recent weeks, TMCs have come under incredible and understandable pressure from their corporate clients to secure refunds for flight bookings that their employees have been unable to take.
Research by the BTA found that, at its peak, well over £200 million of British companies’ monies was being held by airlines – funds that those companies desperately need at this challenging time.
An intense engagement campaign by the BTA and others has seen increasing numbers of airlines take a collaborative approach and offer viable forms of refund. Last week’s BSP payment saw essential money start to flow back to TMCs who were then able to pass it on to their clients.
This is to be welcomed, and we will continue to engage with airlines which have yet to take this collaborative approach. But, as more airlines offer the option of refunds, our research indicates that carriers are also lengthening the time they are taking to deliver them.
One high profile UK airline has recently increased the time it takes to process refunds through BSP from 12 to 18 weeks. That lengthened refund process will delay the return of monies to the TMCs’ corporate clients and could make the difference between their survival or failure. This practice needs to be urgently corrected by the airlines, so that TMCs can pass refunds back to their customers without further delay.
This challenge isn’t limited to the skies either. Just this week, we’ve seen disparity on the rails too. Whilst all of the train operating companies and Evolvi are to be applauded for passing back refunds to TMCs without any charge, one leading train travel provider, despite extensive engagement from the BTA, continues to levy administration charges for TMCs and their customers. This is disappointing and needs to change, quickly.
As the business travel sector, and indeed the travel industry as a whole, starts to plot a path towards recovery, we will only be successful if we work closely together. We must count on collaboration.”