EMIRATES airline says it has completed an intensive programme to clear its over US$1 billion backlog of refund requests, which was caused by Covid-19 pandemic-related travel disruption.
The Dubai-based airline resumed flights to Zimbabwe in October following the easing of travel restrictions and recently increased flights between Harare, Lusaka and Dubai to three times a week.
Over the seven-month period starting April, Emirates received, validated and processed nearly 1,7 million refund requests, it said in an update. This resulted in the airline returning AED 6,3 billion (approx. US$ 1,715,219,163) refunds to its customers. Of this sum, AED 4,.7 billion (approx. US$1,279,607,947) was refunded to customers who had booked directly with the airline and the remainder was returned via travel agencies.
In addition, the company says it managed over 130 000 refunds-related queries from customers and travel agency partners and made status changes to nearly four million flight coupons.
At the peak of its project, Emirates had 110 personnel dedicated to validating and processing refunds, massively increased from the 19-person team pre-pandemic. The airline managed this by internally moving personnel from other functions to assist in this endeavour, it said.
Sir Tim Clark, Emirates president said: “In the early months of 2020, Covid-19 massively disrupted travel around the world and led to an unprecedented volume of refunds requests across the aviation and travel industry, including at Emirates. It was not a situation any airline wanted, particularly while also facing a cash crunch from drastically reduced operations. Through those difficult months, as we dealt with the impact of the pandemic on our business, we’ve never lost sight of our commitment to our customers.
“Thanks to the efforts of our refunds and customer service teams, the support and co-operation of our partners, and the understanding of our customers, Emirates has now cleared our backlog of refunds. We still have higher volumes of refunds and flight coupon change requests compared to pre-pandemic times, but we now have the capability to manage these within a 7-day turnaround”.
Sir Tim said in addition to honouring refunds, Emirates offered customers’ flexibility to travel at a later date and helped frequent flyers to retain their tier status.
“For those of our customers who continued to fly, Emirates offered the industry’s first free global Covid-19 cover for their added peace of mind, we put in place rigorous bio-safety measures on the ground and in the air, and we ensured that information on the latest travel requirements was easily available on our website.”
Meanwhile, Emirates vowed to continue providing its customers with travel assurance and confidence. Earlier this week, the airline announced that it will be offering its customers multi-risk travel insurance and Covid-19 cover, at no charge on all tickets purchased on or from December 1, 2020.