The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) has reissued its plea to the government for a more flexible furlough arrangement to be introduced following a survey of agents.
More than 85% of those surveyed by the SPAA reported that they want to be able to use furloughed staff for limited work during the period of furlough, while 70% of all agents surveyed have furloughed some or all staff to protect at least 80% of their income during the UK lockdown.
Currently, SPAA members have more than 70% of all their staff on furlough, which represents more than 75% of their workforce.
Joanne Dooey, SPAA president, said: “Travel agents are the first link in the chain for a client booking a holiday, but the last link in the chain when it comes to airline and travel company refunds.
“This means that client monies are held up in a refund pipeline and some companies in this pipeline are either refusing to refund or offering only credit notes.
“Travel agents are faced with having a significant amount of work to do from which they derive absolutely no income, while still being responsible for all other outgoings. The travel industry needs urgent tailored support as our business model differs considerably from that of a retail operation.
“We’re urging the government to allow some form of flexible return to work for furloughed employees, for example staff being permitted to work for 20% of their contracted hours to help. Those currently still working in agencies, many of whom are business owners, are struggling to manage their clients’ expectations.”
Dooey added: “We’ve had several reports of agents being abused and threatened for not giving refunds.”
SPAA members are also calling on the government to extend the furlough scheme beyond June.
Meanwhile, none of the agents surveyed had successfully claimed on business interruption insurance to date. Of the 35% who had made a claim, 85% had been unsuccessful with 15% awaiting a decision on their claim.