The Air Passenger Association of India (APAI) is receiving an increasing number of complaints from passengers of low-cost airlines over refunds of cancelled tickets. The passengers claimed that the airlines, instead of refunding ticket amounts, issued them vouchers that can be redeemed for travel in the future on any sector.
Till November 2008, APAI received one or two complaints per month on an average. In December, there were nine. Two budget carriers, GoAir and Spice Jet, did not respond to multiple text messages, phone calls and emails sent to them since Wednesday.
Dania Thomas, a professor of law at a UK university, was among the aggrieved flyers. Recently in Mumbai, she bought a GoAir return ticket to Delhi. When she had to cancel it for personal reasons, she was told there would be no refund. “Instead, they offered me a travel voucher valid for six months,” said Thomas. “I resumed work in a month and a half. There is little chance of using the voucher.”
“The problem is becoming rampant,” said Sudhakar Reddy, national president, APAI.
With flexible fares, a voucher offers no guarantee of travel at the price at which the ticket was booked. Also, said Reddy, “the airline would charge for rebooking”.
Not refunding ticket money is a violation of rules and passenger rights, according to the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) of May 22, 2008. The CAR makes it mandatory for all airlines to refund cancelled tickets under Rule 133A of the Aircraft Rules and Ministry of Civil Aviation, with no provision for vouchers.
DGCA chief Nasim Zaidi said he would ask all low-cost carriers to comply with the CAR. “Passenger interest is paramount,” he said.