Indian air tickets booked before or during lockdown refundable


India’s civil aviation regulator DGCA has informed the country’s Supreme Court that people who had booked air tickets during the lockdown are entitled to immediate refunds.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation also clarified that in case of tickets booked prior to the lockdown up to May 24, the refund would be governed by the credit shell and incentive scheme.

The Indian government had earlier introduced an incentive scheme by which 0.5 percent interest will accrue on the original fare lying in the credit shell from the date of cancellation of the flight till June 30, 2020.

Beyond this period, the passenger can avail 0.75 percent interest every month till March 31, 2021.

In a supplementary affidavit, the DGCA clarified that the refunds were broadly divided into three categories.

The first category is of those who booked tickets prior to the lockdown for travel up to May 24 (as calibrated domestic operation recommenced from May 25, 2020), who will be governed by the proposed credit shell and incentive scheme.

In the second category, passengers who booked tickets during the lockdown will be entitled for immediate refund of fares by the respective airlines as the latter were not supposed to book such tickets.

In the third category are persons who booked tickets at any point in time, but for travel after May 24, to whom refunds will be governed by CAR (Civil Aviation Requirement) provisions.

Advocate Jose Abraham, representing petitioner Pravasi Legal Cell, said: “The present affidavit filed by the Union of India clarifies that the scheme for full refunds is applicable to all tickets booked prior to the lockdown, which was not clear earlier on. Tickets booked during the lockdown are also entitled to immediate refunds…. It is definitely a welcome stand as far as the petitioners are concerned.”

The Indian government had assured the Supreme Court September 9 that there was no catch in its proposal with regard to the refunds for tickets booked during the lockdown.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the government, told a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, RS Reddy and MR Shah that if the tickets were booked on March 15, before the lockdown, even then these would be fully refunded.

In the case of tickets booked through tour operators, the government clarified that if such operators had already paid the money to the airlines for tickets but the clients were yet to pay the operators, the tickets will remain in the name of the prospective passengers on cancellation and converted to credit shell. In case the prospective travelers utilize the credit shell, they will pay the money to the tour operator/agent and not the airlines.

The government had proposed that full refunds be given by airlines within 15 days for tickets booked during the lockdown. If any airline was in financial distress, a credit shell should be provided up to March 31, 2021 on the routes of passengers’ choice, it said.

The full refunds were proposed for tickets booked with domestic and foreign airlines.

In an affidavit in the Supreme Court, DGCA OK Gupta said full refunds should be given immediately by domestic airlines if tickets were booked directly with it or through agents during the first lockdown period, that is, March 25 to April 14 for journeys to be undertaken in both first and second lockdown (March 25 to May 3) periods in all such cases.