The Supreme Court has been informed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that tickets booked by passengers in domestic and international carriers for air travel during the first two phases of lockdown -- between March 25 to May 3, 2020 -- will be "fully refunded".
"If the tickets have been booked during the first lockdown period, i.e. 25 of March 2020 to 14th of April, 2020 for the journeys to be undertaken in both first and second lockdown period i.e. from 25 of March, 2020 to 3 of May, 2020, in all such cases, a full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately (this is being mandated vide MoCA's OM dated 16 April, 2020 as the airlines were not supposed to book such tickets)," the affidavit filed by DGCA before the top court stated.
"For all other cases, the airlines shall make all endeavours to refund the collected amount to the passenger within 15 days," it added.
The affidavit was filed in a batch of pleas seeking a refund of air airfare to passengers whose flights were cancelled during the lockdown. The top court had earlier asked private airlines along with the Ministry of Civil Aviation to find a way out to refund the airfare of passengers.
It further added, "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. The passenger shall be able to consume the credit shell up to 31 March, 2021 on any route of his choice. If the passenger wants to buy a ticket of value more than the credit shell, then he can use cash totop it up. If he wants to buy a ticket of value less than the credit shell, he/she can do so and the balance amount of credit shell shall be available to him/her." The DGCA also said that the "credit shell shall be transferable", adding that the passenger can transfer the credit shell to any person, and the airlines shall honour such a transfer.
"The airlines shall devise a mechanism to facilitate such a transfer. By the end of March 2021, the Airlines shall refund cash to the holder of the credit shell," the DGCA in its affidavit further added.
The Centre has also apprised the apex court that if the tickets have been booked through travel agent during the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown period, a full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately. This amount shall be passed on immediately by the agent to the passengers.
Similar refund conditions apply for international travel via domestic and foreign carriers, it added.
The DGCA also stated in the affidavit that policy of the Central Government is that every individual passenger has a right to seek a refund of those tickets, the flight for which was cancelled without any fault of his/her.
It is stated that non-refund of such fares amount to a violation of provisions of the CAR (Civil Aviation Requirements) and CAR is necessary to protect the interest of air passengers.