Qatar Airways has paid out over US$1.2 billion in refunds to almost 600,000 passengers since March, after the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted their travel plans.
This comes amid widespread complaints over airlines refusing refunds to passengers and travel agents over cancelled flights, after the global crisis forced carriers worldwide to ground fleets and suspend operations.
Having received “unprecedented numbers of refund requests”, Qatar Airways said that it has processed 96 per cent of all refund requests since March 2020. The airline is now processing all new refunds back to the original form of payment in less than 30 days.
Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said: “The amount we have paid out in refunds has undoubtedly had an impact on our bottom line, but it is our duty to do the right thing by our customers and trade partners, and as an airline, we are strong enough to mitigate the impact of this.”
To manage the high volume of refund requests, which the airline said reached over 10,000 per day at the height of the crisis – Qatar Airways had to increase its automation capabilities, so customers could request their refund online, after which it can largely be processed automatically. The airline also automated travel voucher requests, so that passengers were able to receive a voucher within 72 hours of requesting it online.
The airline also redeployed employees from other departments, such as its cabin crew and ground services staff, to join the airline’s global network of customer contact centres to help manage the large volume of online requests and customer phone calls.
As well, the airline said that it has made the refund and rebooking process as easy as possible for its trade partners, continuing to use the industry standard global distribution system to pay out refunds.
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