Some airlines offer voucher bonuses to reduce refunds

Wanting to reduce the number of refunds they pay out for
canceled flights, some airlines are offering bonus flight credits for customers
who take a voucher. 

Among them are Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, Qatar Airways and
Singapore Airlines. Qatar and Aer Lingus will provide vouchers equal to 10%
above the cost of the booking. Lufthana’s vouchers entitle holders to a 50 euro
discount when rebooking. Singapore is making a more stratified offer, with
voucher bonuses ranging from $50 for coach tickets to $350 for first-class
tickets.

American said in late March that it was incentivizing customers
who choose a voucher, though the carrier has no formal policy in place.

So, should travel advisors encourage clients to choose this option?

Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airlines for Travel
Leaders Group, cautions against it unless a refund isn’t an option.

One problem, he said, is that accepting a voucher locks the
traveler into a single airline. When rebooking, customers may want the ability
to shop for fares. 

Vlitas also said that managing vouchers can be an added
complication for agents, requiring them to input rebookings manually rather
through the normal workflow.

Michael Wraight, director of U.S. sales for Singapore
Airlines, says its flight credit program is designed to offer genuine value to
customers and travel advisors alike.

Unless a customer requests a refund, Singapore is providing
vouchers, including bonus credits, automatically for all unused tickets through
June 30 that were booked up to March 15. The credits are good until June 30 of
next year.

Wraight said agents benefit when clients opt for credits
because they retain the booking and because they get the opportunity to upsell
to a premium product when the client decides to rebook.

But he emphasized that Singapore’s policy also allows for
ticketholders to request a refund even after they’ve been issued a voucher and
bonus credits. 

“Having that choice or flexibility is great,” Wraight said.
“It also puts a lot of ease on the agents. Passengers who have the flexibility
and can wait, it gives them an option.”

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