Airlink is no longer accepting 083 coupons issued to customers by SAA, and the coupons are now non-refundable, posing a problem for agents and tour operators.

Angela Matthews, Owner and Director of inbound tourism company, Alpha Destinations, told Tourism Update that, because the company was not affiliated to Iata, carriers issued tickets for them instead of issuing tickets in the office. Angela said SAA had issued Airlink tickets to the value of almost R200 000 (€10 360), which were booked and paid for to SAA, because they were issued on SAA paper.

“We contacted Airlink yesterday because we had to postpone one of the trips that was booked for April, to later in the year,” Matthews said. “We were told by Airlink that it couldn’t put that coupon on hold because, with immediate effect, all coupons issued on SAA paper for Airlink flights were no longer valid.”

She was told by Airlink that Alpha Destinations would have to cancel all the bookings made for Airlink flights that were issued on SAA paper, then make new bookings on the correct Airlink 4Z flight number, and pay Airlink again so that it could issue those tickets. “We’re being asked to pay for a second time, for the same seats,” said Matthews.

She was then told by Airlink that it would submit the cancelled tickets to SAA for refunds, but the following morning, received communication from SAA saying it would not be refunding any tickets.

Matthews said that in February the company had made a booking on Airlink for two seats on a flight from Johannesburg to Maun, to be flown in April. Because they knew there might be trouble brewing at SAA, they asked Airlink to issue the tickets.

“We paid for the tickets by EFT into the Airlink account, and Airlink then issued the tickets,” she said, “But at that time Airlink did not have its own ticket stock, so it also issued SAA 083 coupons. And now we are being told, that although we paid Airlink for these tickets, the refund had to come from SAA.

“We are taking such a hit with the coronavirus as it is, we cannot possibly afford to foot the bill for poorly designed agreements between our service providers.”

Louise Brugman, MD of Vestor, which represents SAA’s business rescue practitioners, told Tourism Update: “SAA is employing a credit policy consistently across all tickets – including for SAA-marketed flights, SA Express and Airlink – on 083 SAA ticket stock. The coronavirus situation represents a unique set of challenges and SAA’s credit policy is one of the most generous in the industry today. All ticketed customers may use the full credit value of their tickets toward any flight with SAA until  March 24, 2022, and we’ll even permit a change in name.”

 “New tickets will have to be purchased on 4Z if already ticketed on 083. This is completely out of our hands. We cannot take the risk of accepting a 083 ticket from April 20 onwards,” said Marketing and Sales Manager of Airlink, Karin Murray.