Understandably, people paid a lot of money for travel they won’t be taking, and they want their money back. But a new filing from Qatar Airways gives an insight into just how bad things are, and why it might be taking so long, at least for some airlines.
The Doha, Qatar based airline alone has paid out over $1.2 billion in refunds already, to over 600,000 customers, and they’re still not done…
Qatar Airways Refunds
Qatar Airways claims it’s worked through 96% of its March backlog, and is now processing new refund requests within 30 working days. In pre covid-19 times that might not sound impressive, but compared to other airlines, it’s a solid effort.
According to the airline, processing 600,000 refunds has been, and continues to be an all hands on deck process. Cabin crew, ground services teams and other departments were called in for customer service training, to handle up to 10,000 refunds per day.
Oneworld airline partner British Airways is said to have processed circa 900,000 refunds, while many other airlines continue to play hardball. US based United Airlines famously changed the definition of “cancelled” to avoid refund duties, and analysts estimate some $3 billion left on the table still to be refunded, among major airlines.
As airlines look to bring travellers back, refund confidence is a key factor, and many holidaymakers are feeling the burn. Qatar Airways was one of the first airlines to bring in a generous “travel confidence” policy, including the ability to turn in a ticket for the full value plus 10%, in the form of a voucher.
Airline Booking Confidence
Airline confidence policies help cover travellers when grey areas apply, such as when a flight goes ahead, but a customer no longer wishes to travel. Protecting the full ticket amount, plus 10% for future use gives customers the reassurances needed to continue booking.
The airline also sent travel enthusiasts on an amusing journey, offering free changes for destinations up to 5,000 miles away from the original booking, with no fare at all, provided you could travel in 2020. For many, it was a golden ticket to business class at near economy pricing.
With travel bookings down and money flying out the door, it’s a tough time to be in the airline business.