SRINAGAR: In a clear violation of Supreme Court orders and the directions of the Civil Aviation Ministry, the airline companies are not refunding the passengers for the flight tickets booked since March 25 when lockdown across India was imposed to combat coronavirus pandemic.
Tens of thousands of people have been left in lurch by airline companies like Go Air, Spice Jet, Vistara, Air India and Indigo after their flights got cancelled due to the lockdown.
The airlines have failed to refund for the cancelled flights to the passengers even after a gap of four months. Many passengers allege that the airline companies were resorting to dilly-delaying tactics and mischief to grab their money.
“How can an airline withhold passengers’ money unendingly and force them to purchase fresh tickets?” Zamrooda Dar, a flier told Kashmir Observer.
Dar along with three others had booked an Indigo flight from Bangalore to Srinagar for March 31. However, the flight was cancelled due to the lockdown. She later rescheduled the flight for May 7.
“That flight too was cancelled. We again rescheduled the flight for June 10 and that too was cancelled.”
Dar later booked an Indigo flight from Bengaluru to Delhi on May 27. However, that flight again got cancelled. Since airlines could not reschedule her flight on next date she was left with no choice but to purchase a new ticket for June 10 against a hefty sum. The flight finally took off bringing her home along with three of her co-passengers.
However all her pleas for refund of repeatedly cancelled previous flights has met with negative response.
“I was left in the lurch after Indigo airlines informed me that my money was put in the ‘credit shell’. Meaning I have to travel again on the same flight within the validity period of the credit voucher to utilise the amount,” she said.
According to the sources, airlines created over Rs 2000 crore credit shell as the flights remained grounded due to the lockdown. Initially, the passengers were offered rescheduled tickets on the dates of their convenience.
However, after Supreme Court stepped in and asked the Civil Aviation Ministry and airlines to collectively work out the modalities for ways to refund flight tickets, the passengers heaved a sigh of relief.
But airline companies failed to provide a convincing answer to the agreaved passengers. Thousands of passengers continue to wait for their money to be disbursed by the airlines, OTP Consolidators, like Yatra, Makemytrip, Easemytrip Goibibo and travel agents.
Like Zamrooda, Saika, another passenger had booked a Vistara flight from Delhi to Srinagar on March 29 to return home. However, her flight too was cancelled. The flight which she rescheduled 15 days later also did not take off.
“We were not given any refund. We were informed by the call centre of the airliner that only a meagre amount will be refunded. Finally, I took a train to reach home,” she said, adding my money stays with the airlines with little hope of early refund.
However, many officials of the private airliners claim that most of the refund to the passengers has been made either directly to the passengers, or online portals and travel agents through which they had made the bookings.
“We have refunded over 60 percent passengers after their flights got cancelled. The remaining will too be refunded soon,” an official of a private airliner told Kashmir Observer. However he did not want to be identified.
The refund, he claimed, was made through travel agents, online portals and OTP Consolidators.
India imposed the first phase of lockdown from March 25 to April 14 to curb the spread of coronavirus. The second phase of lockdown was from April 15 to May 3. During which all domestic and international commercial passenger flights suspended their operations.
On July 8 the Supreme Court sought response from the Centre in a fresh petition seeking full refund on tickets for flights cancelled due to the lockdown. The petition filed by the Air Passengers Association of India will be heard along with the already pending petition filed by Pravasi Legal Cell.
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