Airlines will have to refund money collected from tickets that were cancelled following the coronavirus induced lockdown without any cancellation charge, the Supreme Court said today. The three-judge Bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, passed the order after taking into account the recommendations of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to refund ticket fares and also approved a credit shell scheme which will be valid till March 31.
The judgement applies for bookings made for both domestic and international tickets during the period.
Those who have purchased tickets through travel agents can collect the refund amount from them once the money is credited back to their account, the court said.
The airlines have been given time to refund the amount to the passengers by March 31 next year, it said. But bookings made during lockdown for travelling during lockdown needs to be refunded immediately "as the airlines were not supposed to book such tickets," the court said.
"If a passenger booked a ticket during the lockdown period (from March 25 to May 24) for travel during lockdown period and the airline has received payment for booking of air ticket for travel during the same period, for both domestic and international air travel and refund is sought by the passenger against that booking being cancelled, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without any cancellation charges. The refund shall be made within a period of three weeks from the date of cancellation, the order said.
"On such refund, the amount shall be passed on immediately by the agent to the passengers," it said.
"For those who made bookings prior to lockdown for a period up till May 24, the refund would be governed by the credit shell scheme and the incentives thereunder," the court ruled.
Refund amount for tickets purchased for travelling on dates after May 24 would be governed by the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), it said.
"Even for international travel, when the tickets have been booked on an Indian carrier and the booking is ex-India, if the tickets have been booked during the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown period, immediate refund shall be made," the order said.
"If the tickets are booked for international travel on a foreign carrier and the booking is ex-India during the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown period, full refund shall be given by the airlines and said amount shall be passed on immediately by the agent to the passengers, wherever such tickets are booked through agents. In all other cases airline shall refund the collected amount to the passenger within a period of three weeks," it added.
The court has asked the Ministry of Civil Aviation to issue compliance notification in the matter.
The credit shell issued in the name of the passenger can be utilized upto March 31, 2021, the bench said, adding that the and the concerned airline shall honour such a transfer by devising a mechanism to facilitate such a transfer.
"In all cases where credit shell is issued there shall be an incentive to compensate the passenger from the date of cancellation upto June 30, 2020, in which event the credit shell shall be enhanced by 0.5 per cent of the face value for every month or part thereof between the date of cancellation and June 30, 2020. Thereafter the value of the credit shell shall be enhanced by 0.75 per cent of the face value per month upto March 31, 2021," it said.
It court also made it clear that such credit shell can be utilised by the concerned agent through whom the ticket is purchased, for third-party use.
The order came on a batch of petitions seeking the refund of air airfare to passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
With inputs from agencies