Pre-Covid bookings: Supreme Court asks govt for full status on air ticket refund

By: |
September 10, 2020 8:00 AM

“Flights were cancelled and all aspects are needed to be considered. You consider everything,” the court said while posting the matter for further hearing on September 23.

This option is not available to foreign carriers, who must refund within 15 days.This option is not available to foreign carriers, who must refund within 15 days.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to clarify its stand on complete refund of money for air tickets booked prior to lockdown but for travel as well as bookings made during the lockdown. It even wanted to know what’s the current position regarding refund if the airline cancels a flight due to technical reasons.

A bench led by justice Ashok Bhushan sought the clarification, saying “Flights have resumed and functioning now but if the flight operator cancels the flight due to some technical difficulty, then what is the position on refund?” It further queried solicitor general Tushar Mehta, “Suppose a ticket was booked on March 15, that is before the lockdown period, but the travel date was during the lockdown, even then also will full refund be given?”

Mehta informed the bench that the Centre has already decided that there will be full refund for tickets booked during lockdown I and II and it has also tried to ensure that airlines’ don’t suffer due to this. For domestic travel ticket, every airline has to refund which is irrespective of the date, the SG said.

“As per my understanding, even before the lockdown suppose a ticket was booked on March 15 for travel during the period of lockdown and the flight was cancelled, complete refund may be given,” he said, adding that the decision has to be approved by the apex court. “We have consulted all stakeholders including ticket agents before finalising the proposal,” the SG argued.

However, in case a ticket was booked for travel from a foreign country to another offshore nation, then it is not in the hands of the government to refund the airfare, Mehta said.

“Refund can only be given for those (tickets) that were booked from India. If British Airways was booked from London, we don’t have the jurisdiction,” he added.

“Flights were cancelled and all aspects are needed to be considered. You consider everything,” the court said while posting the matter for further hearing on September 23.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde argued that relief should not be limited to people who had booked ticket during the first lockdown period. He said many people had booked tickets earlier but the flights were cancelled so relief should be irrespective of the date of booking and should not be limited to the lockdown period.

Airlines like SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir said that they largely agree with the stand of the government.

The Director General of Civil Aviation in its affidavit stated that air passengers who booked their tickets during the lockdown will get an immediate and full refund from the airlines. “For all the other cases, the airlines shall make all endeavours to refund the collected amount to the passenger within 15 days,” it stated.

It also said that if any airline is not in a financial position to pay immediately due to financial distress, the fare amount shall be kept in a credit shell to be availed by the passenger for travel by the same airline on any route before March 31, 2021. This option is not available to foreign carriers, who must refund within 15 days.

As an incentive mechanism, the proposal offered 0.5% increase in the valuation of the credit shell if it was not “consumed” till June 30, 2020. The value of the credit shell would increase 0.75% if the credit remains untouched till March 31, 2021, the aviation regulator said.

The Centre’s affidavit was filed pursuant to the Supreme Court’s June 13 order, which had asked the Centre, the DGCA and the private carriers to discuss and work out modalities for full refund of tickets for domestic and international flights cancelled during the Covid lockdown.

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