The Director-General of Civil Aviation has clarified that it would be requisite for domestic carriers to give a full refund on air tickets which were booked prior to the lockdown and which are for the travel up to May 24, 2020, on all the domestic and international routes.
The affidavit was filed by the Director-General of Civil Aviation before the Court on the PIL filed before the Supreme Court seeking relief as a money refund of flight canceled during the lockdown.
The case was listed for hearing in the Supreme Court on September 23, 2020, before 3 judge bench comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy, and M R Shah.
On the last date of hearing, the three-judge bench asked the Centre to respond on the issue of refund of airfare and also to produce the detailson whether the credit shell or incentive scheme formulated by the Centre extended just to book a ticket during the lockdown period or for the period prior to it.
The Director-General of Civil Aviation has differentiated three different kinds of passengers in response:
1) For the passenger who has made a booking prior to the lockdown for a period up till May 24, 2020, and it would be governed by the credit shell scheme and incentive thereupon.
2) For the passenger who booked a ticket during the lockdown and traveling during the lockdown, the refund should be initiated as early as possible by the airline, as they were not supposed to book those tickets.
3) Thirdly, the bookings which were made for the traveling after May 24, 2020, shall be governed by Civil Aviation Requirements.
On the matter of credit shell, the Director-General of Civil Aviation said that "if the Tour operator has already paid the money to the airline for purchasing the ticket for the client but the client is yet to pay that money to agents then on cancellation of ticket and converting it into credit shell, the ticket will remain in the name of the passenger and in case passenger utilizes the credit shell he will pay to the agent and not to the airline." He further said that the passenger, who has not utilized the credit shell till March 31, 2020, then the airline, has to refund the amount according to the norms and the money will revert back to the same account of the agent from which the ticket amount was paid to the airline.
With regard to the foreign carriers, the credit shell scheme will not apply and passengers will be entitled to a refund of fare without 15 days.
On September 9, 2020, the bench sought clarification from the center on the issue related to the refund of flight cancellation after the resumption of the normal operation of flight after dialogue down the bench also so ask the center that if the central proposal will cover the ticket which was booked during the pre-lockdown phase.
The plea was filed by Parvasi Legal Cell and it highlighted that the action of non-refund of money by the airline which is collected for the ticket due to cancellation is arbitrary and it is in violation of the Civil Aviation requirement which is issued by the Director-General of Civil Aviation.
The petitioner had also stated that instead of providing a full refund of the amount collected the action of the airline of providing the 'Credit Shell' was in a clear violation of the Director-General of Civil Aviation requirement and according to which the option of refund is "the prerogative of the passenger and not a default practice of the airline".
Moreover, the plea stated that airline companies should show some humanitarian values rather than using this time as an opportunity to make money from the people who are already in a bad situation.