Aviation watchdog DGCA has said that for bookings in the first lockdown period, passengers must be given full refund within three weeks from the date of cancellation. It added that there must be no cancellation charge. "If a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown period (from 25th of March to 14th of April, 2020) and the airline has received payment for booking of the air 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 levy of cancellation charge. The refund shall be made within a period of three weeks from the date of request of cancellation," said DGCA in a circular.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has also said that airlines will have to refund air travellers for any booking made during the lockdown period of March 25-April 14. The ministry additionally advised airlines to create a credit shell shorter than a proposed year for bookings made between April 15 and May 3.
Meanwhile, the airlines have argued that credit shells create a corpus fund that helps them pay for operating costs that they are incurring despite the travel ban. Credit shells are basically a note from the airlines against cancelled bookings allowing passengers to make future bookings.
Negotiations are underway between the airlines and the government.
However, travel agents who booked tickets had to refund the entire amount and argued that airlines must refund them in cash. "We have clients sitting on our heads asking for cash refunds. If we offer them credit shells, they are not sure when and how to utilise them. In Punjab and some South Indian states, some of the clients have complained against our members to the police. We have burnt fingers with Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways' fiascos. We don't want to suffer again. We don't want our money to be repatriated outside of the country. The due amount has to be credited as cash into our systems," Jyoti Mayal, president, TAAI had earlier told BusinessToday.In.
According to travel agents, most domestic carriers like IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air India along with IATA's 111 member airlines globally have refused to pay the refunds in cash. Rs 8,000 crore is now stuck due to ongoing disputes with the airlines.
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