Coronavirus Outbreak: Consumer forum demands air ticket refunds on travel date basis
City-based consumer protection forum Mumbai Grahak Panchayat on Monday urged the civil aviation ministry to direct airlines to refund customers for the cancelled flights based on the date of travel and not as per the date of booking and has sought suitable modification in 16 April order on this issue
Mumbai: City-based consumer protection forum Mumbai Grahak Panchayat on Monday urged the civil aviation ministry to direct airlines to refund customers for the cancelled flights based on the date of travel and not as per the date of booking and has sought suitable modification in 16 April order on this issue.
All domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for the lockdown period. However, cargo and special flights permitted by the DGCA can fly in this period.
On 16 April, the aviation ministry said passengers can ask airlines for a full refund if the bookings were done during the first phase of lockdown for travel up to 3 May.
However, the government has not taken any decision till now on whether a full refund should be given to passengers who booked their tickets before the lockdown for travel during the 25 March-3 May period.
The first phase of the lockdown was from 25 March to 14 April. The second phase began on 15 April and would last till 3 May, as of now.
"It is unfair to restrict the benefit of full refund only to those who booked the travel for the first lockdown period during that period itself. In fact, we wonder whether if any airline was at all accepting any bookings during the first lockdown period for the said lockdown period," Mumbai Grahak Panchayat Chairman Shirish V Deshpande said in a representation to Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri.
"Unwarranted importance is (being) given to the date of booking and not to the date of travel. What is important is the date of travel, no matter when the tickets are booked. In this case also you are denying legitimate full refund to lakhs of passengers who have booked their tickets much before the first lockdown period for the journey during the second lockdown period. The passengers who have booked their tickets well in advance cannot be denied the full refund under any circumstances," Deshpande said.
Therefore, the Forum suggests that “if a passenger has booked a ticket for travel during the first lockdown, that is from 25 March to 14 April and the airline has received payment for booking of the air ticket during the lockdown period for travel during the same period for both domestic or international air travel, then that airline, travel agent or travel web portal, as the case may be, shall refund the full amount collected without levy of any cancellation charge," Deshpande said in the representation.
It may be also mentioned here that immediately after the government extended the lockdown to May, domestic carriers including IndiGo announced the resumption of services in a phased manner from 4 May, without waiting for any directives from the government in this regard.
This forced the aviation watchdog DGCA to issue a circular late last week stating: "All airlines are hereby directed to refrain from booking tickets... Further, the airlines may note that they shall be given sufficient notice and time for restarting operations."
The Forum stated that the first travel advisory was issued by the Health Ministry on 11 March, restricting non-essential travel and, therefore, it calls for a full refund to such passengers also who have cancelled their tickets pursuant to such government advisory and necessary instructions.
It also said that besides the airlines, the travel agents, travel portals and aggregators should also be directed to provide full refund in cases where the tickets have been booked through them, without any conditions or offer of utilising the said money for future travel.
While Kerala entered a 15-day COVID-19-induced lockdown from today, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have decided to impose similar stricter restrictions from 10 to 24 May to curb the spread of the coronavirus
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