The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice and sought reply from the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on a plea that alleged that despite the government’s orders, many airlines have not issued refunds for flights cancelled due to the ongoing lockdown.
The plea in the Supreme Court filed by Pravasi Legal Cell is seeking for court's intervention in directing the airlines, both domestic and international, to issue full refund for tickets booked for travel during the lockdown.
The petition submitted that the union government through a March 23 order had suspended air travel in the country. A subsequent order on March 27 from the DGCA extended the air travel ban until April 14 – the last date of the first phase of the nationwide lockdown. In a circular issued on April 14, the air travel ban was extended by the aviation ministry until May 3.
The plea points out that after the lockdown extension, on April 16, MoCA issued an “office memorandum”, directing all airlines to issue a full refund for tickets booked during the first phase of the lockdown. The same order from MoCA also clarified that there can be no levy of cancellation policy.
The petition claims that despite clear orders, the airlines instead of issuing refunds, have issued a “credit shell” in favour of passengers. The plea argues that issuance of “credit shells” is in violation of the civil aviation requirements of the DGCA, which clearly stated that holding the refund amount in a “shell” will not be a default practice, and will be “prerogative of the passenger”.
The petition also red flags that the April 16 order of MoCA has directed refund only for those who booked their tickets during the period of the lockdown. The petition claims that this leaves a vast majority of passengers, who had booked their tickets prior to the announcement of travel restrictions, in the dark. The plea argues that the order by MoCA is “ambiguous”, “devoid of logic” and violates the DGCA rules.The Supreme Court observed that the practice of allowing refund to only those who booked their tickets after lockdown, and leaving out those who might have booked their tickets earlier for travel during the lockdown period, was arbitrary.