New Delhi: In a major relief for those who booked flight tickets during the first and the extended COVID-19 lockdown periods, the Centre has formed guidelines on refund of fares.
In an official memorandum, the Ministry of Civil Aviation acknowledged the unusual situation that has arisen due to the lockdown and its consequential effect on the air passengers and airlines. At present, domestic and international commercial flights are banned since March 25, 2020, barring cargo operations.
To deal with massive cancellations, domestic airlines started to offer credit to the passengers in lieu of their booking amounts. These credits can be used to book tickets at a later stage, when the situation normalises.
However, discrepancies have occurred on the refund mechanism. The first phase of lockdown was supposed to have ended on April 14, but it has been extended till May 3. "If a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown period... 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 the levy of cancellation charge," the ministry said.
The guideline mandates airlines to make the refund within three weeks from the date of request for cancellation.
"If a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown period... for travel during the second lockdown period for both domestic and international air travel and the passenger seeks refund on cancellation of the ticket, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without levy of cancellation charge."
Similarly in this case, the airlines have been mandated to make refunds within a period of three weeks from the date of request for cancellation.
— DGCA (@DGCAIndia) April 16, 2020
On Wednesday, senior officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation via a virtual platform met airline CEOs on the issue. In hindsight, private airlines were accepting ticket bookings for travel post April 14, however, the earlier lockdown deadline got extended till May 3. Consequently, airlines adopted their previous strategy of providing a "travel credits" to passengers of the now cancelled flights to make another booking as and when the sector re-opens.
This system is complicated as ticketing agents and various payment channels are also involved.
(With IANS inputs)