JyotiMayal strongly advocates for more active and meaningful role for the travel agents in the affairs of the industry, by their inclusion at all levels of decision making. JyotiMayal, President, TAAI reflects on the issue vehemently during an interaction with TTJ.
According to you, which were some of the wonderful ups and critical downs you noticed in the Indian airline industry in 2019?
The ups for the industry are that travel is increasing constantly. Our members are more hands-on to the business. There are more avenues open for business in tourism. The down sides are many more and 2019 was very challenging. Jet Airways defaulting was the biggest setback, the agents money was stuck, agents suffered huge losses, Cox & Kings in India and Thomas Cook in U.K. was another setback. Lot of our members buy from bigger agents and these companies winding up had a direct effect on them as their passengers were stuck at different destinations and future travel for many clients was paid up, with no source of refund in sight. The client doesn’t care where the agent has bought from. When the industry sees such outcomes, it gets shaken.
According to you, in terms of international or domestic airline operations, what are some of the aspects which seriously need to be addressed by the government?
The government of India should seriously look at this industry to be structured, the policies need to be drawn not only from the view point of airlines coming into this country or flying domestically, but also for the industry as a whole. Somehow the government very conveniently forgets us, the travel agents. They forget our role and acknowledgement that we are the industry which fills the aircraft’s seats and the belly. The government should take the travel agents on board, when any airline is or wanting to fly the Indian skies, whilst chalking out the policies, taking into consideration the inputs provided for a better and healthier approach. We are the soul and body of the industry and know the needs of our clients to a great extent. We are the soul and body of the industry and know the needs of our clients too. International airlines should follow the rule of the land and only the government can make this rule a code-of-conduct.
What are some of the constant challenges you face when dealing with the airlines?
The challenges are innumerable. Now that the aviation industry is established, the airlines are conveniently trying to side line us. As per the passenger sales agreement established by IATA, an IATA agent would be remunerated, that has disappeared. The payment structure though structured was 45 days credit has been reduced to weekly. Ticket stock which was an established right if you were IATA recognised is now to the whims and fancies of the airline. At one time they needed us so we were a pampered lot and customer was the King. Now they are dominating how we do business and trying to bypass us as they have the data of our passengers.
Today, most of the airlines have reduced staff and thus there is no service level. It’s literally like take it or leave it. For an airline to behave this way is not only because the government is playing into their hands but because we as an industry are weak too.
Your thoughts on some emerging aviation trends to take notice of in 2020?
For the emerging global aviation trends we need to look at the traveller – it’s a new avatar of a traveller. His world is technology with offline space, social space to create his brand, airports where he needs space to network and work, safety from terrorism and diseases. We need to understand consumer behaviour and attitudes growth of low cost carriers. We need to study behavioural change of a traveller and adapt these changes into improve our facilities. Big data analytics is set to redefine the future of aerospace. Airlines will experiment with dynamic pricing. Not to forget ease of travel for the elderly, persons with reduced mobility and the physically challenged. Indian Aviation Industry needs to be redefined for the better. We want it to be a robust industry, with profitability while keeping the consumer happy via the best deliverance.