There has been a ban on arrivals from countries until further notice, including countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and the Philippines that constitute the major chunk of the expatriate population in Oman.
Apart from affecting the airline sector and its employees, the impact of the ban on frequent travellers, especially expatriates from these countries is enormous, with several of them worried about the expiry of their visas and their renewal. The second major issue has been getting a refund from airlines if customers wish to cancel their tickets.
Speaking to the Observer, the owner of a Sanad service in Ruwi said that the expatriates who are stranded abroad due to a travel ban can renew their visas that have expired during this period. “The sponsor or the PRO from the company can visit the Sanad office with company details, passport, resident copies and two photographs of the employees for renewal of the visas.” Getting refunds from the airlines for cancelled tickets is more complex.
The airlines have been advising passengers, who were booked to fly with them this period, to reschedule their tickets for travel at a future date.
“I generally prefer cancelling my ticket and getting a refund than rescheduling it for a future date. The problem is we do not know how long the ban will continue, and airlines do not give multiple date change options. While the airlines do allow cancellation of tickets, the refunds can take a couple of weeks and even months,” said Ravi Prabhakar, who had a ticket booked for the first week of June from Oman.
Sources at an online ticket portal said that as the company has been facing a flood of refund-related queries and requests due to the pandemic situation, the refund of money can take three to four weeks.
“Under these circumstances what we suggest our clients is not to rush into booking tickets. Airlines are not able to refund tickets on short notice as they have a cash crunch. Secondly, due to the ban on inbound travellers, there is a low demand for an outbound flight that force airlines to reduce capacity,” a senior travel agency executive said.
According to The International Air Transport Association (IATA), recovery in international passenger travel continued to be stalled due to in the face of government-imposed travel restrictions this year. “The continuing strong recovery in domestic markets tells us that when people are given the freedom to fly, they take advantage of it. Unfortunately, that freedom still does not exist in most international markets. When it does, I’m confident we will see a similar resurgence in demand,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s DirectorGeneral.