Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 9
The Supreme Court on Wednesday requested airways to spell out their stand on a full refund of cash to passengers for air tickets booked throughout lockdown 1 & 2 when air journey was banned as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan requested the airways to reply in 10 days to the Centre’s affidavit that mentioned passengers had been entitled to a full refund for air tickets booked throughout Lockdown 1 & 2 and posted the matter for additional listening to on September 23.
The Bench mentioned the Centre can also file an extra affidavit clarifying its place on the problems raised in the course of the listening to, significantly with regard to refund for flights cancelled after the resumption of operations put up lockdown.
Major airways akin to Indigo, GoAir, Vistara, Spicejet, Air Asia had been represented by varied senior advocates, together with Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve, Arvind Datar and Pinaki Mishra whereas Air Passengers’ Association was represented by senior advocate Aryana Sundaram.
The high court docket is seized of a PIL filed by Pravasi Legal Cell demanding full automated refund of cash for tickets booked for flights in the course of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Supreme Court had on June 12 issued notices to the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on the PIL.
“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, a full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation mentioned concerning home airways’ tickets booked immediately by the passenger with airways.
Similarly, for worldwide journey when the ticket has been booked on an Indian service and the reserving is ex-India, it mentioned, “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.”
This was being mandated because the airways weren’t imagined to ebook such tickets in the course of the first and second lockdown, it added.
“For all other cases, the airlines shall all endeavour to refund the collected amount to the passenger within 15 days,” it mentioned in its affidavit filed final week.
However, the affidavit mentioned, “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 31st 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 to top 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 affidavit learn.
As one of many advocates on Wednesday steered that the credit score shell ought to go to the tour operator as a substitute of the passenger, the Bench shot again, “It is the passenger who paid the money. Why should the credit shell go to the operator?”
The petitioner NGO had mentioned each home and worldwide airways had been violating the Ministry’s order which obliged them to totally refund the quantity for tickets cancelled on account of COVID19 lockdown.
Pointing out that as a substitute of a full refund, airways had been offering a credit score shell, legitimate as much as one yr, the PIL had submitted that failure to refund the total quantity collected for tickets owing to cancellation of flights resulting from restrictions imposed by the federal government to forestall the unfold of COVID-19 violated DGCA’s Civil Aviation Requirement, 2008.
It had referred to the Ministry’s April 16 Office Memorandum (OM) which directed all airline operators to refund the total quantity collected for all tickets booked in the course of the first section of the lockdown between March 25 and April 14 each for home and worldwide bookings.