November 15th, 2011
The Association of SA Travel Agents has responded to research claims indicating that South Africans are being ripped off by traditional travel agencies who do not provide the best available flight prices for customers.
According to Robyn Christie, chief executive of the Association of SA Travel Agents, "Turning survey results into intelligence is always an interesting exercise and obviously Travelstart have interpreted a version that reflects kindly on their online travel business, but it is harmful to an industry to create a perception that all travel agents other than themselves are rip-off's."
"The results of this survey implies that they are ripped off on a daily basis which is clearly not the case. ASATA Members abide by a strict Code of Conduct and without seeing the details of this survey it is difficult to understand who is deviating from the norm.
From an Association perspective who deals with Consumer issues, Christie says, "94% of all complaints are about non-ASATA Members including a deluge of travellers who have been let down by the internet.
"Not all travellers are seeking the cheapest price, many are seeking advice from travel experts, advice they are prepared to pay a negotiated price for.
"This intermediary service includes the negotiation of competitive rates, providing 24-hour access in the event of any unforeseen changes, not to mention having to interpret complicated fare rules to avoid unnecessary charges.
For the past eight years, she said, travel agents had been charging service fees, as a result of airlines moving away from paying commissions to agents. "Therefore the survey is not well informed as to its assumption that the agent will move business in an attempt to maximise their earnings.
"The Consumer Protection Act demands transparency in fees charged and ASATA Members have been well versed with the requirements thereof, but moreover the Consumer is very well informed as to their rights and do not hesitate in reporting irregularities."
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