First Travel responsible for umrah refund: Minister

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesias Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin stressed that travel agent First Travel will bear responsibility of returning the payment for umrah, or minor haj, packages to customers.

“This is First Travels responsibility. They have to account for the customers funds that have already been deposited,” Saifuddin said here, Thursday.

He said the travel agent has two responsibilities towards its customers, the first being to return the payment for umrah or divert the tour to other travel agents, with all funding covered by First Travel.

Under the second option, First Travel could no longer handle the religious tour, as the authority had revoked its license.

The minister reiterated that the travel agent could not wash its hands off the case, despite the polices move to name the owners as suspects.

“Those two responsibilities are still with First Travel, although its license has already been revoked,” he noted.

Saifuddin reiterated that in the case, the ministrys authority was to grant the license to an umrah travel agent, while its operations were run by agents already having the license.

On the need for a base price for umrah packages, Saifuddin said, the government is studying the possibility, as in the absence of a base price, some travel agents could trap customers by promoting cheap prices.

Saifuddin noted that the government did not organize umrah, but it would focus only on the Haj pilgrimage.

“We let this umrah be organized by the public through their travel agents, but they have to be accountable. Hence, we will increase our monitoring,” Saifuddin noted.

Founded in 2009 by husband and wife Andika Surachman and Anniesa Desvitasari Hasibuan, the company initially offered regular domestic and international travel packages.

It expanded to offer umrah packages after acquiring a permit from the Religious Affairs Ministry in 2011.

The couple was arrested on Wednesday by the National Polices Criminal Investigation Department following complaints from customers that their trips had been delayed.

Some 25 thousand people have allegedly fallen victim to a scam carried out by travel agent First Travel.

Source: Antara News