Passengers will be refunded the amount of air tickets for cancelled flights which were booked during coronavirus lockdown as per the Supreme Court’s order today. The direction came after the court accepted all recommendations of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) made in this regard.
It is worth noting that refunds for all air tickets that were booked through travel agents will be given to the travel agents and not the passengers directly.
The order was passed by Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah
In this regard the Centre had earlier informed the Court that the refund for air tickets will only be applicable for flights originating in India, both domestic and international. It has clarified that there cannot be any refund for flights originating out of India, irrespective of whether it is an Indian carrier or an international carrier coming into India.
The court has given airlines time to refund the amount to the passengers by March 31 next year. However, the bookings made during lockdown for travelling during lockdown needs to be refunded immediately “as the airlines were not supposed to book such air tickets,” the court said.
“If a passenger booked an air tickets during the lockdown period (from March 25 to May 24) for travel during lockdown period and the airline has received payment for booking of air tickets for travel during the same period, for both domestic and international air travel and refund is sought by the passenger against that booking being cancelled, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without any cancellation charges. The refund shall be made within a period of three weeks from the date of cancellation, the order said.
“On such refund, the amount shall be passed on immediately by the agent to the passengers,” it said.
The court added that,
“For those who made bookings prior to lockdown for a period up till May 24, the refund would be governed by the credit shell scheme and the incentives thereunder,”
The DGCA has categorised passengers into three categories. The threshold of May 24 is set for dividing the passengers in these categories since operation of domestic air travel had begun in a calibrated manner May 25 onwards
- For those who made bookings prior to lockdown for a period up till May 24, the refund would be governed by the credit shell scheme and the incentives thereunder.
- For bookings made during lockdown for travelling during lockdown, refund shall be made by airlines immediately “as the airlines were not supposed to book such tickets.”
- For bookings that were made for travelling on dates after May 24, the refund would be governed by the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR).
With regards to the payment of refunds to travel agents, Senior Advocate Pallav Shishodia had averred that passengers have paid the money not to the airline, but to agents. He also informed the Court that there are many cases where the agents have paid in advance to the airline.
Appearing for GoAir, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar had said that airlines were facing massive losses and that while having “frozen working capital”, they were left to bear the burden of paying refunds to which Justice Bhushan had said,
“But that is your airline’s problem, how can you hold up passengers’ money?”
The instant order was delivered in a batch of petitions filed before the court which sought for the refund of air airfare to passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown.