Matta urges airlines to give a deadline for refund as it is painful for individual passengers to wait indefinitely for refunds
by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by BLOOMBERG
THE Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) said it is currently providing some leeway for airlines in terms of how they need to respond and complete refund requests.
Mavcom said under the Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code (MACPC), consumers may receive compensation for flight disruptions caused by airlines.
“However, this regulation does not apply where the flight disruption is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’, outside of airline’s control. Containment measures of the Covid-19 involve national quarantines and travel bans, not only in Malaysia, but countries worldwide,” it said.
“These situations are deemed extraordinary circumstances in which airlines will have to abide due to security and safety measures.”
Mavcom said this in response to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents’ (Matta) demands for airlines to refund passengers and travel agents affected by Covid-19 with cash on flight cancellations instead of credit values.
Mavcom said it strongly encourages consumers to refer to the website of respective carriers to ascertain the terms of any refund requests.
“The airline nevertheless retains a commercial discretion on whether to exceed the prevailing tickets terms in favour of the consumer,” it said.
“The Commission is very sympathetic towards the plight of consumers who have been inconvenienced and will continue its efforts for air travel consumer protection in Malaysia.
“We nevertheless also hope all stakeholders work together in these unprecedented circumstances for the longer-term survival and benefit of the aviation industry in Malaysia,” it said.
Meanwhile, Matta air transportation VP Shazli Affuat Ghazali said airlines should make cash refunds as their top priority and not issue credit notes which may have little or no value if they go insolvent.
“While they are being bailed out or given loans to resume operations post-pandemic, they must first pay cash refunds to restore public confidence.
“It is a matter of principle to return payments collected from customers for services not rendered due to the current extraordinary circumstances,” Shazli Affuat said in a statement yesterday.
Shazli Affuat said Matta is also disappointed by the inaction of the Transport Ministry (MoT) and Mavcom over the matter.
“We are disappointed by the silence of the authorities that include MoT and Mavcom.
“One of Mavcom’s functions is to provide a mechanism for the protection of consumers and the commission should have stepped forward to announce clearly what measures are in place or will be introduced for customers to get their money back,” he said.
Shazli Affuat said while it is painful enough for individual passengers to wait indefinitely for refunds, the agony is multiplied manifold among travel agents who are constantly dealing with angry customers in the background.
Local carriers have temporarily suspended almost all, if not 100%, of their passenger services due to travel restrictions in Malaysia and other parts of the world.
Operations are running at the minimum, mostly to facilitate essential travels and cargo movement.
Airlines are currently in survival mode with some on the edge of bankruptcy as revenue streams stopped, and to provide cash refunds to customers would be a tall order.
Malaysia Airlines Bhd has offered ultimate flexibility for all flights that include free unlimited change of dates, free unlimited destination change and free go-show to board an earlier flight on the same day.
Similarly, AirAsia Group Bhd offered affected customers with flexible options that include unlimited flight change and credit account, while Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd with travel vouchers.