TORONTO — The chorus of calls for commission protection in the wake of Sunwing’s Saskatchewan cancellations now includes a strongly-worded statement from ACTA.
In late December Sunwing announced the temporary suspension of its sun flights out of Saskatoon and Regina, effective immediately through Feb. 3. Passengers in-destination were flown home and travel advisors worked long hours over their holiday break, assisting their clients.
Says ACTA: “On December 29, 2022, Sunwing issued a mass cancellation notice to travel agencies and independent travel agents, advising of the immediate suspension of all Saskatchewan flights until February 3, 2023. Since then, additional cancellations in other regions have occurred.
“This came at the height of catastrophic winter delays, with many customers already in-destination then in need of repatriation.
“Travel agents are incurring significant customer service obligations, and we are concerned that despite the tremendous amount of work completed by travel agents, commission might not be protected.”
ACTA says it has received “overwhelming feedback from travel agencies and independent travel agents across Canada who have been impacted by Sunwing’s cancellations.
“It is ACTA’s firm position that when a decision to cancel a travel program is made, travel agent commission should be part of the decision-making process, and commission must be protected,” says the organization.
“We are in continuous contact with Sunwing’s leadership team, and ACTA will continue steadfast advocacy with all stakeholders to ensure fairness for travel agencies and independent travel agents.”
ONE AGENCY OWNER’S OPEN LETTER TO SUNWING
Travel retailers impacted by the cancellations have spoken out in the trade media as well, calling on Sunwing to protect commissions.
“Every penny of our commission recalled. It is abhorrent,” Jamie Milton, co-owner, Uniglobe Carefree Travel, told Travelweek earlier this month.
Milton’s agency is based in Saskatoon and was hit hard by Sunwing’s decision. Milton later sent an open letter to Sunwing Travel Group CEO Stephen Hunter.
“We would really appreciate it, Mr. Hunter, if you could also commit to doing better by the travel trade and regaining our trust. That is going to be just as difficult of an obstacle as regaining your clients’ trust,” said Milton in her letter.
“I want to make it loud and clear that the travel trade expects and demands retroactive commission protection on cancelled bookings and a retroactive letter of apology for the disruption your decisions caused members of the travel trade.”
Carrie Anne Gillespie, a home-based travel advisor in Regina, told Travelweek that for clients who had their vacations cancelled, “it has been hard and at times impossible to rebook.”
Gillespie adds: “As agents, this is a financial loss we will not be able to recoup so easily. Sunwing is recalling our commissions for their error. Our work has been nonstop. We did our part and had their backs, now is the time Sunwing needs to have ours.”
On Jan. 5 Sunwing issued an apology to travellers.
Sunwing has also issued this message for its travel advisor partners:“Due to extenuating circumstances, we have unfortunately cancelled our operations from both Saskatoon and Regina airports up to and including Friday, February 3, 2023. Customers with cancelled southbound departures will receive a full refund to their original form of payment. No action is required from customers and refunds will be processed within 30 days.
“We will follow normal procedures with respect to travel agent commissions for cancelled bookings.
“We sincerely apologize to our valued travel advisors in Saskatoon and Regina – who are instrumental in advising our mutual customers – for the inconvenience and disruption.
“Please know that the decision to temporarily halt our operations from both airports was not made lightly but out of necessity due to several factors that prevented us from delivering the standards of service our Saskatchewan customers expect from Sunwing.
“Within the next few days we will finalize plans for both airports for February and March, and it is our sincere hope that, with the continued support of our esteemed agency community, we can regain the trust of our Saskatchewan customers and return them to destination in the months ahead.”