In a relief to some fliers, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) has asked airlines to refund tickets that were booked between March 25 and April 14 for travel during the lockdown.
In a communique to airlines on April 16, the ministry asked airlines to refund tickets, both domestic and international travel, without levying any cancellation charges.
“The refund shall be made within a period of three weeks from the date of request of cancellation,” the notice said.
But the wording of the statement, may have left some room of respite for airlines.
The carriers, including IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir, had suspended flights during the lockdown, but instead of refunding the ticket, had kept the fare in a credit shell that a passenger could use later.
“The ministry acknowledges the unusual situation that has risen due to the lockdown being imposed…and its effect on the air passengers and airlines,” the communique said.
The first lockdown lasted from March 25 to April 14. Consequently it was extended to May 3.
Apart from asking airlines to refund tickets booked during the first lockdown for travel during the same period, the ministry added that ticket booked in the same time, for travel during the second lockdown, should also be refunded.
So if a passenger has 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.
The catchThough the move will bring some respite, industry observers immediately questioned about bookings made before March 25, and why they weren’t included.
“Also the statement says, ‘and the airline has received payment for booking of the air ticket during the first lockdown…’. That puts a question mark. Is it possible that if a booking is done through a credit card, or through a travel agent, then the payment may have not reached? If so, then the airline doesn’t need to refund these tickets,” said an industry observer.
Another industry executive said few people would have booked during the first lockdown to travel during the same time, especially when flights were suspended.
The three weeks window to refund also gives airlines enough time ito hold cash, till the new bookings begin for travel post May 3, said an industry executive .