Full refund will be provided by airlines for tickets booked during the coronavirus lockdown for domestic or international travel upto May 24, the Supreme Court ordered on Thursday. The apex court approved the refund and credit shell plan proposed by civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to reimburse passengers whose flights were cancelled during nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
A three-judge bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said tickets booked through travel agents will be refunded through travel agents. The top court asked the government to notify the scheme and file a compliance report.
The airlines have the option to open credit shells in the names of passengers who can use it to fly on any route before March 31, 2021. The credit shell is transferrable to anyone and if the passenger wants to buy a ticket of value more than the credit amount, then he can use cash to top it up. The passengers are also entitled to get interest of 0.75 per cent on the money in the credit shell if the credit remains untouched till March 31, 2021.
Similarly, a proposal was made by the DGCA for refund of tickets for passengers who have booked tickets for international travel through Indian carrier or foreign carrier during the lockdown period.
The aviation regulator said the existing legal regime which is governed by Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) recognises the rights of air passengers to seek refund of their air tickets.
"The policy of the Central Government is that every individual passenger has a right to seek refund of those tickets, the flight for which was cancelled without any fault of his/hers. It is stated that non-refund of fare amounts to violation of provisions of the CARs," DGCA had said in an affidavit filed in the top court.
The court order came on a PIL filed by NGO ''Pravasi Legal Cell'' and Air Passengers Association who demanded refund for tickets booked prior to the lockdown. The apex court had asked the Centre, the DGCA and the airlines to discuss and work out modalities for full refund of tickets for domestic and international flights which were cancelled following the COVID-19 lockdown.
The DGCA had already issued a notification on April 16 ordering immediate refund for tickets which were booked during the lockdown period, that is from March 25, to April 14, for the journeys to be undertaken in both first and second lockdown that is from March 25 to May 3, 2020.