Saturday, June 27, 2009

Matta: No penalty for changing holiday plan

Holidaymakers who booked overseas trips a few months ago can postpone them if they do not want to travel now due to the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) said.

However, they would have to give ample notice to travel agents, Matta president Ngiam Foon said.

The agents should be given reasonable time to negotiate with package tour suppliers such as hoteliers and those involved in transportation.

The negotiation would include waiver of cancellation charges.

“There isn’t any fixed time when the agents need to be informed, it just must be a reasonable time. They should not inform the agents today for a trip scheduled for a day or two later. It should be at least a month prior to the departure date,” he told The Star yesterday.

Ngiam agreed that it would be difficult for travellers to decide on the new date of travel due to the uncertainty about the pandemic.

Even airline companies had allowed rescheduling of flights without charging additional fees, he added.

He said Singapore Airlines had waived rescheduling charges for flights to all affected countries while Eva Airways allowed appeals. United Airlines had waived charges for flights to Mexico.

At the Malaysian Travel and Tourism Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Ngiam noted that the pandemic was a bigger threat to the travel industry compared to the global economic meltdown.

The local tourism industry went down by 40% in the first six months of the year, he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines senior general manager (network and revenue management) Dr Amin Khan said there was no cancellation of flights to affected countries like Australia and the United States.

Passengers who had booked flights to the affected countries could make changes at no charge until Aug 31, he added.

Airline director of operations Datuk Tajuden Abu Bakar said there were enough cabin crew for flights as only those assigned to the rows of seats involving infected passengers were quarantined for seven days.

An AirAsia spokesman said the airline would allow rescheduling at a cost as there was no travel restrictions by the Government.

This was supported by the World Health Organisation when it had stated that travel restrictions did not stop the spread of disease in previous influenza pandemics, he said.

“Should the guests insist on changing travel plans, they can do so by visiting and click the option ‘Manage my Booking’ on the first page and proceed to make the necessary changes,” he added.

Source : STAR
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