Give full refund for tickets booked from March 25 to May 3 for cancelled fights: Govt tells airlines

The Civil Aviation Ministry on Thursday directed all airlines to give a full refund to passengers for flight tickets booked during the first phase of lockdown for travel up to May 3, without any cancellation charges if they ask for it.

Several passengers have been complaining on social media as domestic airlines have decided not to give refunds in cash for cancelled flights due to the lockdown and instead issue credit for future travel.

India imposed the first phase of lockdown from March 25 to April 14 to curb the spread of coronavirus. The second phase of lockdown is from April 15 to May 3.

All domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended during the lockdown period.

The Civil Aviation Ministry issued a circular on Thursday stating,”If a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown period, and the airline has received the payment for booking of air ticket during first lockdown period for travel during the second lockdown period, for both domestic and international air travel,  and the passenger seeks refund on cancellation of the ticket, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without levy of cancellation charges”

Similarly, the ministry clarified in its circular that if a passenger has booked a domestic or international ticket during the first lockdown period, and if the airline received the payment during that period only, for travel during the second lockdown period, the passenger can ask for refund from the airline and the latter shall give it.

The ministry said the refund must be given to passengers within a period of three weeks from the date of the request for cancellation.

When Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways shut down their operations in India, it resulted in massive losses to passengers as refunds could not be processed. Both the airlines were taking advance bookings even when their financial condition was precarious.

The US government earlier this month directed its airlines to issue refunds to passengers for ticket cancellations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As domestic and international travel has been suspended in India during the lockdown period, the revenues of Indian airlines have decreased drastically. Airlines in the country fear that if they have to issue full refunds to all passengers, it will significantly deplete their cash reserves.

Therefore, none of the airlines in India are issuing full refunds. Instead, they are issuing credit vouchers of the same price as that of the cancelled tickets, which can be used by the passengers for another booking during the next one year. 

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