Mavcom responds to MATTA statement, says will protect consumer rights

PETALING JAYA: In a response to a statement by the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) said it is sympathetic to the plight of consumers who have had travel plans disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but has provided airlines some leeway in responding to consumer refund requests.

In a statement, Mavcom said to date, airlines operating in Malaysia have indicated a cancellation of approximately 13.6 million seats, or 12.3% of annual scheduled operations.

“The Malaysian carriers have correspondingly received an inordinately high volume of passenger refund requests, which their resources are currently striving to manage. As such, the airlines may take longer than usual to respond to consumers.

“The financial challenges currently faced by the airlines have also coincided with them needing to adopt varying forms of refunds, including cash, vouchers, credit shell or alternatively deferment of travel,” it said.

Given the current prevailing circumstances and in the spirit of facilitating the industry, Mavcom said it is temporarily providing some leeway in terms of the time airlines need to respond and complete refund requests.

“At the same time, to ensure consumer interests remain protected, the commission is requiring the airlines to resolve complaints and refund requests as timely as possible on best efforts basis, and the commission shall monitor the airlines’ performance in this spirit,” it said.

The Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code (MACPC), which Mavcom introduced in 2016 to protect consumer interests in air travel, requires airlines to resolve complaints and remit refunds to consumers within 30 days of receipt of those complaints.

Under the 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 the airline's control - such as the national quarantines and travel bans seen now.

Mavcom also said it has prepared an FAQ on its FlySmart website which consumers may refer to for information on refund requests during this Covid-19 period.

“The commission also 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.

Earlier today, MATTA issued a statement saying airlines should make cash refunds a priority, as opposed to issuing credit notes, which may have little to now value should the airlines become insolvent during this period.

MATTA vice-president for air transportation Shazli Affuat Ghazali said that it was a matter of principle to return payments collected from customers for services not rendered due to the current extraordinary circumstances, and subsequently expressed disappointment at the “silence” on the matter from authorites, which included the Transport Ministry and Mavcom.

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