While Indians have gradually resumed air travel, a sizeable number of travelers is still struggling to get a refund for their booked air tickets during lockdown.
According to a Directorate of General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) report, 61.4% passengers in December complained of issues surrounding refunds. These complaints were largely against national carrier Air India followed by SpiceJet and TruJet. This is despite the Supreme Court’s order to refund all passengers who booked tickets during the lockdown period last year.
Jay Bhatia, vice-president of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), said, “Air India is refunding the monies through travel agents, but the progress is very slow. Presently immediate refunds are getting processed on our global distribution system (GDS) only below the value of our weekly sales. As regards to SpiceJet, refunds for groups and series of agents is being processed slowly and we are confident that the same shall be settled by the end of this month. Our members had major concerns with GoAir but the airline has assured it would refund all monies by January-end.”
Air India, on January 7, 2021, opened automated refunds of air tickets for 24 hours. The airline had specified that it opened the refunded tickets covered under the Supreme Court judgement through travelport and amadeus (computer reservation systems for tourism industry).
The December report also stated that 7.33 million passengers travelled by air in December, which is up from 6.35 million in the preceding month. It also stated that domestic airlines flew 15% more passengers in December than November 2020, as travelers felt more confident about flying than before. The number of passengers, however, fell 43.7% from December 2019.
DGCA, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court in September 2020, had stated that tickets booked for domestic and international carriers between March 25 and May 3 will be fully refunded within 15 days. DGCA’s affidavit also stated that “If on account of financial distress, if the airlines are not able to do so, they shall provide a credit shell equal to the amount of fare collected. This credit shell shall be issued in the name of the passenger who has booked the ticket.” DGCA affidavit also stated that passengers will be able to use the credit shell up to March 31, 2021 and change the flight sector. This means that a passenger booked on a Mumbai- Indore flight can change his/ her sector and fly to any other destination till March 2021.
All this was highlighted after an order was issued by the Supreme Court on June 13, 2020 asking private airlines and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to find a way to refund the airfare of passengers whose flights were cancelled during the lockdown. It was then that meetings were held with all the stakeholders in July and it was decided that tickets booked directly by passengers during lockdown would be fully refunded.0