No refund on lockdown flights originating outside India, Centre clarifies
For tickets booked prior to March 25 for travel up to May 24 (as calibrated domestic operations recommenced from May 25), the airline was liable for refund within 15 days.Updated: Sep 24, 2020, 22:05 IST
Refund of air tickets for international travel during the lockdown period will be restricted only for flights originating from the country (ex-India) and will not extend to flights scheduled to arrive in India, irrespective of whether they are Indian or foreign carriers.
The latest clarification from the Centre came on an affidavit filed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in answer to queries put forth by the Supreme Court hearing a petition by Pravasi Legal Cell.
On Wednesday, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, had asked the Centre to respond to concerns raised by the petitioner and travel agents association who were not happy with the refund scheme proposed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and DGCA in consultation with airline operators and travel agents.
The scheme, which is awaiting the nod from the apex court, proposed immediate refund for tickets booked during the lockdown period (March 25 to April 14). For tickets booked prior to March 25 for travel up to May 24 (as calibrated domestic operations recommenced from May 25), the airline was liable for refund within 15 days.
In the event of financial difficulty, the scheme proposed a credit shell in the name of the passenger that could be availed for travel on any route within March 31, 2021. Interest of 0.5 per cent till June 2020 and thereafter 0.75 per cent would accrue on the credit shell that will be transferable and if unused, will be paid back to the passenger with interest after March 31, 2021.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner Pravasi Legal Cell, told the court that with regard to international travel, the scheme restricted the refund and credit shell benefit only to ex-India flights and not flights originating from other destinations into India.
“During lockdown, many Indians stranded abroad booked tickets in India through their relatives and this scheme does not consider their plight after the flights stood cancelled during lockdown,” said advocate Jose Abraham, who filed the petition for the Pravasi Legal Cell. This group represented many such Indians working in the Gulf countries.
The DGCA responded in the negative to the petitioner’s demand in its latest affidavit filed on Thursday. It said, “The ambit of the regulatory mechanism of the DGCA does not cover international flights, which originate from any foreign destination. It is stated that the said flights are governed by the regulatory mechanism of the country of origin, irrespective of the fact whether the carrier is Indian or not.”
Further, the affidavit stated, “It is reiterated that the issue of refund of tickets/credit shell of such international flights would be governed by the law of such sovereign country from where such international flights originate.”
The affidavit also responded to the demand made by travel agents to create the credit shell in their name as the tickets booked by them were in bulk with the passengers, most of them situated overseas, yet to make payments. The DGCA said that the Civil Aviation Requirements identifies the passenger in whose name the ticket is booked. Tickets booked by travel agents in bulk form part of a private arrangement between the travel agent and the airline which is out of the regulatory purview of the DGCA, the affidavit said.
“The applicable Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs) have been issued for ensuring the protection of the passengers and emphasising the role of airlines in facilitating the same. It is humbly submitted that, the regulation of private arrangements of travel agents is not covered by these CARs, as it is beyond the regulatory purview of DGCA/MoCA….Thus it would neither be feasible nor advisable for the DGCA/MoCA to regulate and supervise such private arrangements between the airlines and the agents,” the affidavit stated.