Airlines decline refund to customers for cancelled tickets as lockdown extended

Most airlines had been taking bookings except national carrier Air India for domestic flights for the period beyond April 14

The note did not specify how many of its more than 30,000 staff were at risk of redundancy. Representational image: iStock

With the central government extending the lockdown to May 3 and subsequently suspension of all commercial passenger services till then, domestic airlines have again decided not to refund the customers in cash for their cancelled flights and instead offer them rescheduling of tickets for a later date without any additional fee.

India had imposed a 21-day lockdown from March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, all domestic and international commercial passenger flights were suspended for this time period.

However, most of the airlines had been taking bookings except national carrier Air India for domestic flights for the period beyond April 14.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of lockdown till May 3, the aviation regulator DGCA issued a circular stating all international as well as domestic flights will remain suspended during the lockdown.

“Following orders from the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued to all airlines, we have extended the suspension of our operations until May 3, 2020.

“We are in the process of cancelling the affected bookings and we will offer customers free of charge rescheduling to another date until December 31, 2020,” a Vistara spokesperson told PTI in statement.

The customer, however, will have to pay the fare difference, if any, at the time of rebooking, the airline said.

A GoAir spokesperson said that it has already “factored in” these type of scenario and that the airline will review its earlier scheme of providing rescheduling free of cost at a later date while protecting their existing bookings for one year.

“In accordance with the Prime Ministers instructions and the DGCAs circular, GoAir has suspended all its flights till May 3,” GoAir said in a statement on Tuesday.

The airline also said it is extending its Protect Your PNR scheme till May 3, 2020 wherein customers are eligible to reschedule their flight by May 3, 2021.

The airline had on Monday announced that it was extending the Protect Your PNR scheme till April 30, 2020.

Aviation consultancy Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation had last week termed the sale of tickets without a clarity on lockdown as “unfair to consumers”.

“The decision to allow opening of advance bookings from April 14 without a decision on lifting of the lockdown and likely structure of the transition period post the lockdown needs to be immediately reviewed as this is unfair to consumers,” Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) said in a statement.

Citing examples of erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines and now-defunct Jet Airways, CAPA said that the closure of these two carriers has “already resulted in massive losses to passengers as refunds couldnt be processed resulting in crores of losses to passengers”.

It may be mentioned here that the then customers of the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways could not recover their money which the two airlines had amassed on account of advance bookings only after their going belly up.

CAPA in its March 18 report had stated that amid COVID-19 and in the absence of government support “several Indian airlines may shut down operations by May or June due to a lack of cash.

Announcing that all its flights are cancelled till May 3, IndiGo said, it is in the process of cancelling the reservations.”Your ticket amount is protected in the form of credit shell in the PNR, which can be utilised within one year of the issued date.”

Gurugram-based spiceJet also said the amount from the cancelled ticket will be maintained in a credit shell.

“We are cancelling the reservation of those who booked tickets for travel till May 3, 2020. Upon cancellation your entire amount will be maintained in credit shell and the same may be used for fresh bookings and travel till February 28, 2021, for the same passenger,” it said.

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