South African Airways dealing with a refund backlog

South African Airways (SAA) has added employees to process a backlog of refunds from flights it canceled during the early portion of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The carrier is asking U.S. travel advisors to forward refund requests via email to either [email protected] or [email protected]. Refunds cannot be processed through ARC channels.

“We extend our sincere apologies to our valued travel advisors and customers for delay and inconvenience in handling ticket refunds and greatly appreciate their patience and understanding as we worked through the process during our business rescue,” said Todd Neuman, SAA’s executive vice president for North America. 

SAA suspended international flights early in the pandemic and subsequently halted all flights as it went through the South African equivalent of bankruptcy. The carrier emerged from its business rescue in the spring and resumed operations in southern Africa in September under new private ownership. U.S. flying has not resumed. 

Early in the pandemic, SAA was offering only flight credits, even on flights it canceled. Now the airline is playing catch-up with refunds. 

Neuman said he does not know how many refund requests for U.S. tickets SAA has not yet addressed, but he said the volume is significant. 

“This is a manual process for us, as travel advisors do not have the ability to process refunds through normal ARC channels,” he wrote. “This is due to our requirement to check each refund request for credit card chargebacks, or in some cases the customer may have exchanged their original ticket for a voucher for future travel on SAA, of which the travel agent may not be aware.”

SAA, he said, is also dealing with customers who originally requested a flight voucher but are now asking for a refund. 

“We are extending that option to customers if they no longer anticipate utilizing the travel voucher,” Neuman said. 

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