A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court on Monday seeking directions to the Centre and the DGCA to ask airlines, operating domestic and international fights, to refund full amount of the tickets which got cancelled due to cancellation of flights in the wake of restrictions imposed to contain pandemic COVID-19. The plea, filed by ‘Pravasi Legal Cell’ through its secretary Bins Sebastian, urged the top court to declare the action of the airlines of not refunding the entire value of cancelled air tickets as illegal and violative of the Civil Aviation Requirement issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
“It is submitted that the Airlines instead of providing the full refund of the amount collected for the tickets due to cancellation, are providing a Credit Shell, valid upto one year, which is clear in violation of the Civil Aviation Requirement of May 2008 issued by the DGCA which clearly states that ‘the option of holding the refund amount in credit shell by the airlines shall be the prerogative of the passenger and not a default practice of the airline,” the plea said.
Referring to the earlier prevalent practice, it said in case of credit card payments, refund shall be made by the airlines within seven days of the cancellation to the account of the credit-card holder and in the case of a cash transaction, the refund shall be “made immediately” by the airline office from where the ticket was purchased.
The Civil Aviation Requirement of May 2008 sets a limit of 30 working days for airlines to complete the refund process for tickets booked through travel agents/portals, the PIL said.
The plea said the Ministry of Civil Aviation, in its Office Memorandum (OM) of April 16, directed the Airlines that if a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown period and the airlines has received payment for booking of the air ticket during the first lockdown period for travel during the same period, the Airline shall refund the full amount collected without levy of cancellation charge within a period of three weeks from the date of request of cancellation.
“It is clear from the Office Memorandum that directs the airlines to refund only those tickets that were booked during the lockdown period, leaves out the vast majority of passengers who had booked tickets before the flights were banned. Which 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,” the PIL said.
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”, the plea said.
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