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DGCA Files Affidavit For Providing Full Refund To The Passengers Who Booked Flight Tickets During Lockdown 1 And 2

By Rhea Banerjee      08 September, 2020 11:27 AM      0 Comments
Tushar Mehta Supreme Court DGCA

The Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta recently informed the Supreme Court that a solution was found with regard to refunding the airfare of passengers which were booked in the lockdown period dating from 25th March to 3rd May 2020. The Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has filed an affidavit claiming that tickets booked during that period will be completely refunded back to passengers. 

Domestic Airlines

In the case of Domestic airlines, if the ticket is booked directly by the passenger, then he can claim credit shell from the airlines till 31st March 2021. If the tickets have been booked after the lockdown had started for their journeys to be undertaken within the first and second lockdown period, i.e from 25th March to 3rd May 2020 in such cases a full refund shall be granted by the airlines immediately as mandated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation dated on 16th April 2020 which mentioned that the airlines were clearly instructed to not book any further tickets. 

As per the current situation, the airlines might be having financial distress and if they are not able to provide the refund then a credit shell shall be issued in the name of the passenger who booked the ticket. 

Ticket booked by Agent (including OTA)

If the tickets were booked by the agent on behalf of the passenger during the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown period in such case full refund has to be given immediately which shall pass by the Agent to the passenger as mandated by the MoCA OM dated on 16th April 2020. 

In other cases, the airlines shall make endeavors and arrangements to reimburse the collected amount to passengers within 15 days. The amount to be passed on by the agent to the passengers. 

An international ticket booked by an Indian carrier

People who booked their tickets to travel abroad and were Indian carriers, then such tickets booked in the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown duration will be refunded by the respective airlines and so shall be passed by the agents to the passengers. 

An international ticket booked by a Foreign carrier 

The same rule applies as that applies to the Indian carrier that in case the ticket is booked within the lockdown period for travel during the lockdown time frame then in all such cases the airlines are liable to reimburse the passengers as per the mandate of MoCA’s OM dated on 16th April 2020. 

The Centre has made it clear that neither of the Civil Aviation Requirements was outdated nor any of them were undermined or placed under suspension. The Bench stated, “it is submitted that the said order is issued primarily for 2 major concerns- firstly, that the airlines cant take the shelter of lockdown to deny the refund and secondly to give certain time extension as nothing has been operational completely during that time and there are serious concerns regarding the liquidity crunch of the Airlines. It is also respectfully submitted, that order was never planned to violate any of the CAR (Civil Aviation Requirement).”

On June 11, 2020, the Apex Court pursued the government’s stand and had asked the Aviation Ministry to discuss the modalities involving all the respective airlines and respond to the Court thereafter. The SG stated that as per his personal opinion this is the money which was ought to be refunded. 

The Senior Advocate Harish Salve represented the SpiceJet and explained the Court that the airlines were already in a very bad financial position as they have suffered a blow of $60 billion globally due to the pandemic. He also contended that 49% of the flying cost was fixed with zero revenue to the airlines. 

Another plea was filed by Parvasi Legal Cell on behalf of Advocate Jose Abraham where he highlighted that action of non-refund by the Airlines of the full amount collected from the tickets due to cancellation is completely arbitrary and violating the Civil Aviation Requirement issued by the DGCA. The petitioner has also claimed that “in place of giving full refund amount, the action of Airlines providing mandatory “credit shell” is also in clear violation of DGCA requirements and according to the requirements the option of refund is a passenger’s entitlement and not default practice of the Airlines.” 

The plea also mentioned that airline companies should be humane enough to these people rather than taking the benefits of these challenging times to extract illicit advantages from people in misery. 

The petitioner has clarified the rationale that the question of booking tickets should not have risen as the passenger flights were already canceled and this makes the Officer Memorandum dated 16th April “ambiguous” and “devoid of any logic”. 

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