Pax Global Media
The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) is shedding light on airline and tour operator cancellations and how they affect the bottom line of travel professionals.
The grassroots advocacy group, which formed in June of 2020, recently surveyed its membership of more than 2,000 travel pros to gain insight into the wave of trip cancellations that occurred during and after the holiday travel season.
In a release issued Wednesday (Feb. 22), ACITA said it was “no surprise” that nearly 86 per cent of respondents said their affected bookings were with Sunwing Vacations or Sunwing Airlines, with more than half of those affected being in Saskatchewan.
Of the travel advisors who answered the poll, roughly 50 per cent were from Saskatchewan, 20 per cent were from Ontario, and the remaining 20 per cent were spread out between British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland, ACITA said.
Sunwing, last month, began cancelling and scaling down service in select regions, including Saskatoon and Regina in Saskatchewan, Northern Ontario, Winnipeg, and cities in Atlantic Canada, notably Fredericton, Moncton and Halifax.
The reductions stemmed from a series of operational failures that climaxed during the Christmas period when a snowstorm slammed into some parts of Canada, crippling operations for all airlines.
Sunwing is not protecting commissions on the flights that it cancelled, which has generated a firestorm of criticism within travel advisor communities.
Following Sunwing’s decision to cancel programs in Saskatchewan for the remainder of the winter season, “advisors and travellers were left scrambling” to make alternate arrangements, ACITA says.
Key responses from ACITA’s membership survey include:
- 20% had up to $30K in commissions recalled
- 4% had between $31-$70K recalled
- 52% of agents affected are from Saskatchewan
- 57% of the cancellations took place between December 29, 2022 and early January 2023
- 37% of the cancellations took place between December 16-29 during the “weather-related ordeal” as Transport Minister Omar Alghabra put it.
- 52% of agents spent the equivalent of one-, two days working on those files after the initial booking was made. This included processing refunds for their clients.
One of the biggest complaints noted was the lack of communication from airlines and tour operators, ACITA reports, saying that more than one-third of survey participants said they received no communication whatsoever.
Advisors shared that their primary source of information was directly from clients, a press release, or social media, instead of from the airlines or tour operators.
While airlines and tour operators are promoting apps, travellers also complained that information shared via apps were inaccurate, not up to date, or differed from airport information and flight tracking apps, ACITA says.
As travel advisors are once again having commissions recalled by the airlines and tour operators, the survey results “highlight the continued need for ACITA to advocate for commission protection for all advisors,” the group said.
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