A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court alleging that domestic and international airlines are violating Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) norms by not giving the full refund of the tickets cancelled due to the nationwide lockdown to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.
The MCA on April 16 had issued an Office Memorandum directing the airlines to refund tickets, both domestic and international travel, without levying any cancellation charges. According to the ministry, any passenger who had booked a ticket on any day between March 25 to April 14, for travel between April 15 and May 3, his or her ticket will be refunded on request.
However, some of the carriers had kept the fare in a credit shell which was valid upto one year that a passenger could use later, instead of refunding the entire fare of the ticket.
The PIL has been filed by NGO ‘Pravasi Legal Cell’.
The PIL contended that the failure of the airlines to refund the full amount collected for tickets is in violation of the Civil Aviation Requirement, 2008 issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Further, according to the PIL, the Civil Aviation Requirement, 2008 sets a limit of 30 working days for airlines to complete the refund process for tickets booked through travel agents/portals.
However, the petitioner points out that the government directive only orders the airlines to refund those tickets that were booked during the lockdown period.
According to the PIL, the Office Memorandum directs the airlines to refund only those tickets that were booked during the lockdown period and leaves out the vast majority of passengers who had booked tickets before the flights were banned. “This indirectly approves to the practice of the Airlines providing Credit Shell for booking effected before the lockdown, though the same clearly violates the refund rules of the DGCA,” stated the PIL.
The PIL further stated that there was no question of anyone booking a ticket during the lockdown knowing that schedule passenger flights were cancelled for period of travel and this made Office Memorandum of the Ministry of Civil Aviation “ambiguous and devoid of any logic.”