New Delhi: Passengers who booked flight tickets during the Covid-19 lockdown shall be entitled for immediate refund of the fare by the airline, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told the Supreme Court.
In an affidavit submitted before the apex court Monday, the DGCA asserted that the “airlines were not supposed to book such tickets”.
The affidavit was filed on behalf of the central government and the DGCA after the Supreme Court on 9 September had asked the government to clarify whether it is willing to provide complete refunds of air tickets booked for travel during the Covid-19 lockdown.
All forms of travel, including flights, were halted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on 24 March. Therefore, most airlines at the time had placed passengers in a credit shell. A credit shell is an open ticket through which a passenger can travel within the next seven months to one year.
Flights began operating in the country in a calibrated manner, two months later, from 25 May.
According to the submission, the passengers who booked tickets prior to the lockdown till up to 24 May would also get a refund through its credit shell and incentive scheme.
For tickets booked at any time for travel after 25 May, the DGCA said that the refund will be governed by the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR).
The CAR lays down several guidelines for cancellation. This includes informing the passenger of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure and arrangement of an alternate flight or refund as acceptable to the passenger.
Refund with interest if credit shell not utilised
The affidavit submits that if the passenger in whose name the ticket is booked does not utilise the credit shell till 31 March 2021, then the airline will have to refund the amount with interest to the agent from whose account the ticket was booked.
“Furthermore, it is respectfully submitted that while processing refund of fares, the money has to go back to the same account from where it was received by the airline for eg. payments made through Credit Card or Net Banking,” the affidavit stated.
So if the ticket was booked through a tour operator, an agent or an OTT, then in the case of refund, the money will go back in the account of the same tour operator or agent from whose account the tickets were purchased.
However, the ticket will remain in the name of the passenger and he can pay the agent if he utilises the credit shell.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a non-profit organisation, Pravasi Legal Cell, through advocate Jose Abraham in April.
The NGO had submitted that passengers did not intend to avail of the credit shell within the stipulated period and should be given a full refund instead.
On 13 June, the Supreme Court had directed the Civil Aviation Ministry to find a way to refund passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the lockdown.
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