COVID-19 lockdown: SC reserves verdict on PIL looking for full refund for cancelled tickets

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 25

The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its orders on a PIL seeking full refund for airline tickets cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdown.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan reserved its verdict after hearing counsel for petitioner Pravasi Legal Cell, various airlines, the Centre and Directorate of Civil Aviation.

On behalf of the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that credit shell, i.e., voucher facility can’t be availed by travel agents who booked tickets during the lockdown.

The Bench wanted to know if the voucher was not used within the deadline who would get the money – passenger or the agent.

Noting that it would depend upon the contract between the passengers and agents, Mehta said the government didn’t control contractual obligations between them.

The court had on Wednesday asked the Centre to clarify the modalities of refund of air tickets to passengers and travel agents for flights cancelled during COVID-19 lockdown.

As advocates representing airlines talked about massive losses faced by them due to COVID19 lockdown, air travellers’ counsel asserted that they can’t be made to suffer and their money has to be refunded.

The Bench – which is seized of a PIL seeking air tickets refund for flights cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdown – posed several questions to the Centre and Directorate General of Civil Aviation regarding refund.

The DGCA had earlier told the top court that full refund shall be provided by airlines immediately for tickets booked during the COVID-19 lockdown for domestic or international travel within the lockdown period.

If airlines were not able to refund on account of financial distress, they shall provide a credit shell equal to the amount of fare collected and this shall be issued in the name of the passenger who has booked the ticket for domestic travel directly or through an agent including online platforms, the DGCA had said.

Passengers entitled to full refund for air tickets booked during Lockdown 1 & 2 during which air travel was banned due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre had earlier told the Supreme Court.

“If the tickets have been booked during the first lockdown period, i.e. 25th of March, 2020 to 14th of April, 2020 for the journeys to be undertaken in both first and second lockdown period i.e. from 25th of March, 2020 to 3rd of May, 2020, in all such cases, full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had said regarding domestic airlines’ tickets booked directly by the passenger with airlines.

Similarly, for international travel when the ticket has been booked on an Indian carrier and the booking is ex-India, it had said, “If the tickets have been booked during the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown period, in all such cases full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately. This amount shall be passed on immediately by the Agent to the passengers, as the case may be.”


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