Travel agents’ apex body directs members to refund airfares for flights booked during lockdown
In a relief to the travellers who had booked their air tickets during the lockdown and are yet to receive refunds, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has directed its members to refund airfares of their customers.
The travel agents’ apex body has 3,000 members across the country.
In a letter to its members on Thursday, TAAI said they have been in constant dialogue with the aviation ministry, International Air Transport Association (IATA) and airlines over the last eight months. While most airlines have released refunds of airfares to member travel agents, Air India, Go Air, SpiceJet, Thai Airways, Kenya Airways are yet to do so as per the directions of the Supreme Court and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
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“Our persuasion with said airlines is on and we are trying our level best through intervention of Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) for some prompt action. We have been receiving updates from various authorities, airlines, consumer bodies and passengers that, inspite of full refunds being processed by the airlines, member agents are not settling the account of the travellers,” read the letter.
Requesting its members, TAAI stated, “With regards to the refunds already received by agents from the airlines, we would request our members to kindly settle their account with the customers/ travellers, who too are in despair.”
TAAI allowed its members to charge a nominal fee, similar to a service charge for their efforts to undertake the procedure of processing the refunds through the Global Distribution Services System (GDS-system) on the IATA portal or with the low cost airlines.
A GDS is a computer network system that allows travel agencies and websites to book tickets on any airline for a passenger. While all full-service airlines avail GDS system for selling their tickets, a few budget airlines also use this platform.
On October 1, TAAI had said that it needed total cash refunds from the airlines for the cancelled flights, as its members and customers were struggling with liquidity issues and basic interest paid to banks was at higher rates.
“We are receiving many complaints about passengers not receiving their refund. In some cases, passengers are being given credit shells after deducting money, which is against the SC order. We have written to DGCA over the non-compliance by airlines and agents. We are also suggesting passengers to write to airlines and DGCA, so that the regulatory body is kept in the loop. As per the order issued by the Apex court, passengers are suppose to receive full refund, including taxes. However, according to the complaints registered with us, this rule is largely being violated, “ said advocate Shirish Deshpande, chairman of consumers’ body Mumbai Grahak Panchayat and party to the plea on the issue of refunds for air tickets booked during the Covid-19 lockdown in SC.