Pax Global Media
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) is “incredibly disappointed” in Sunwing’s decision to not protect commission on cancelled programs in Saskatchewan, Atlantic Canada, Northern Ontario, and other areas across Canada.
“ACTA continues to call on Sunwing to do the right thing and protect commission and urges for immediate improvements to its agent communications to ensure clear, consistent, and timely sharing of information so that travel agents are aware of changes before, or not later than, their clients,” said Wendy Paradis, ACTA’s president, on Wednesday (Jan. 25).
“Travel agents are a crucial support to suppliers and have invested significant resources in planning and rescheduling and cancelling travel due to Sunwing’s decision and are now being told they will not be compensated for their work.”
The statement comes after Sunwing issued a message to travel advisors, via ACTA, addressing its recent holiday travel disruptions.
In the memo, the tour operator said this past month has been “particularly difficult for travel advisors and “we sincerely apologize for the disruptions.”
“With the support of advisors, we planned our highest travel schedule since pre-pandemic for the holiday season,” the message reads. “Unfortunately, we experienced travel disruptions brought on by a convergence of factors, including significant weather events across Canada in the lead-up to Christmas, which limited our ability to reposition aircraft and crew to other airports, resulting in flight delays for some customers and cancellations on specific routes.”
READ MORE: Paying a big price - aviation experts weigh in on Sunwing’s struggles
Despite some interrupted itineraries, which included some customers being stranded in sun destinations for several days, waiting on return flight updates, Sunwing says most of its customers enjoyed their holidays with “minimal disruption.”
“News stories have exaggerated the travel disruptions and overstated the extent of route cancellations,” Sunwing stated. “We would like to set the record straight, respond to the travel community’s concerns and address our plan for the duration of winter, all in an effort to regain the trust of our valued travel advisors and mutual customers.”
Entering the new year, Sunwing said it had 317 weekly flights scheduled for February and March, which was “already below our originally planned level due to resource constraints.”
READ MORE: A “catastrophic failure”: Airlines grilled over holiday travel chaos; commissions addressed
Since Jan. 1, 2023, Sunwing reduced capacity further in order to “safeguard the integrity” of its operations and will now operate 296 weekly round-trip flights.
Overall reductions made since Jan. 1 amount to seven per cent of capacity, and the majority of cancellations were on seasonal routes from cities where Sunwing Airlines does not have crew bases and has to position crews from other regions.
“We regret the impact to passengers on affected routes, and have offered rebooking options from other gateways wherever possible,” the company said, noting that refunds were alos offered.
Commissioned increased to 10%
Sunwing added that “in line with normal procedures and industry standards,” it will not be protecting commissions for cancelled bookings and “regret the inconvenience this has caused.”
The company says many customers have chosen to rebook travel from alternate gateways through their advisors, and “bookings remain strong for the months ahead.”
Not all travel advisors would agree with this, however. Earlier this month, PAX profiled three travel advisors from Saskatchewan who revealed that many of their impacted customers, after being offered the option of a full refund, were choosing to cancel their trip.
READ MORE: “Enough is enough”: Agents blast Sunwing for suspending SK flights, recalling commissions
Earlier this month at a Transport committee hearing, Andrew Dawson, president of tour operations for Sunwing, said the company was committed to finding ways to make advisors whole again.
What this means, for now, is that Sunwing will increase commission to 10 per cent on Sunwing vacation packages booked between January 19, 2023 and February 20, 2023, for departures up to May 31, 2023.
This temporary increase amounts to” tens of thousands of dollars” in additional commission per week, Sunwing says.
READ MORE: ACTA calls for commission protection amid Sunwing cancellations; anger grows
The company is also exploring other ways to support advisors in the months ahead, such as through bonus STAR point promotions for the upcoming summer.
“We recognize there is more work to be done in rebuilding your faith in us and will continue to provide updates on this important work,” Sunwing said. “We are dedicated to regaining your trust in the weeks and months ahead.”
ACTA members have also consistently expressed their concern that Sunwing’s communication practices have considerably impacted customer relationships and the ability for travel agents to manage schedule changes and cancellations for their mutual customers.
In many cases, customers were advised before travel agents of cancellations, ACTA says.
The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) has also shared its thoughts on Sunwing’s practices.
“To say ACITA is disappointed with these most recent cancellations is an understatement,” ACITA told PAX on Jan. 5. “Independent advisors have been working so hard to rebound after two long years of cancellations, and to now have to cancel and process refunds yet again, all while working without compensation, is unacceptable.”
This is a developing story.
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