Hon. Supreme Court of India has issued a notice to Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA, following a Public Interest Writ (PIL) by Pravasi Legal Cell – New Delhi, along with the application of impleadment by IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) seeking appropriate directions to airlines for a full refund of the ticket amount concerned to all flights cancelled due to the nationwide lockdown.
The bench observed that “It does seem arbitrary that refunds are being issued only to those who booked tickets after the lockdown enforced. The relief should be entitled to everyone whose rights cancelled because of lockdown, irrespective of the period of booking”
In conversation with Travel Newsy, Mr. Biji Eapen, President, IATA Agents Association of India ( IAAI ) explains that any traveller who was unable to travel due to Covid-19 related restrictions must be entitled to a full refund if they so desire. This should be irrespective of when the booking was made, or when the travel was booked for.
It is understandable that the current prevailing scenario attributed to COVID-19 related restrictions, airlines and their passengers are both equally affected parties and it will be unfair to retain passenger’s money and expect them all to make a decision to travel in a timeline decided by the airlines.
Passengers who opt to reschedule must have the flexibility to get a full refund of the ticketed value (including basic fare and fuel surcharges) of unutilized tickets or the convenience of rescheduling their travel dates by utilizing the total ticketed value / electronic miscellaneous document (EMD) for the residual value as credit, to be used for the same class and sector without any fees or fare difference
The petition had contended that the office memorandum of the Civil Aviation Ministry, dated 16.04.2020, for the full refund of only those who had tickets booked during the lockdown, leaving out those who booked tickets before the lockdown, even though Flights cancelled is antithetical to basic Constitutional tenets. The plea also asserted that instead of providing a full refund of the amount collected, the decision of Airlines to provide mandatory “Credit Shell” violates the Civil Aviation Requirement, 2008 issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), according to which, the option of refund is “the prerogative of the Passenger and not a default practice of the Airline”.