The aviation regulator DGCA has issued detailed guidelines to airlines on the ticket refunds for flights cancelled during the lockdown period. The DCGA guidelines come six days after the Supreme Court directed that a full and immediate refund of air tickets be cancelled between March 25 and May 24.
Notably, no domestic passenger flights operated in India in this period as coronavirus-infused lockdowns were in place. The government has suspended scheduled international and domestic flights in India on March 23. The apex court also passed directions on refund and credit shell formation for bookings and cancellations done during other lockdown days.
The DGCA directions comprises three categories:
- Category 1: Those who booked tickets between March 25 and May 24 for travelling within the same period.
- Category 2: Those who booked tickets prior to March 25 but the travel period was till May 24.
- Category 3: Those who booked tickets anytime but for a journey post May 24.
As per the DGCA guidelines, those coming in the category 1 will be given full refund by the respective airlines for cancelled tickets. The regulator also asked airlines to "make all endeavours" to refund cancelled ticket fares to the category 2 passengers in 15 days.
"If on account of financial stress, any airline/airlines are not able to do so, they shall provide a credit shell equal to the amount of fare collected (to the passenger). The passengers can then use the credit shells to book any ticket by March 31, 2021," the DGCA guideline suggests.
The DGCA has said the category 3 passengers will be given a refund as per the existing DGCA rules.
The aviation industry has been hit majorly due to the coronavirus crisis, resulting in cost-cutting measures like layoffs, leave without pay and fewer flight operations.
Domestic flight operations resumed in a calibrated manner in India on May 25 onwards. The DGCA had capped the fares for airlines for the next three months in order to keep flight tickets affordable and only limited numbers flights were operated. Currently, airlines can operate with up to 60 percent of their pre-COVID domestic flights.
India is yet to resume full international flight operations. Last month, the government suspended the commercial international passenger flight services to or from India till October 31. The international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis, the Centre has said.
However, air passengers can still travel abroad or can come to India via air bubble arrangement. India has so far signed air bubble agreements with 15 countries, including Bhutan, Kenya, the US, UK, Germany, France, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Kenya, Canada, Iraq, Japan, Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, and UAE.