IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) on Saturday filed an Application for Impleadment before the Supreme Court of India in the matter of Pravasi Legal Cell V/s Union of India & Anr.- Public Interest Writ (PIL) filed by Pravasi Legal Cell -New Delhi, a registered NGO striving to provide legal aid to the voiceless individuals of the society, especially NRI’s, seeking orders to the Central Government and DGCA for a full refund of Air tickets issued before and after 24th March for the Flights cancelled due to Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic situation.
IAAI and its new initiative of ” IAAI Air Passenger Rights Forum, “are receiving numerous complaints from Passengers regarding the refund of Domestic and International Flights for tickets issued before and after 24th March.
IAAI’s Application for Impleadment submitted by Biji Eapen – President IAAI, through Adv. Jose Abraham – Advocate on Record of the Supreme Court and President of Pravasi Legal Cell, seeks orders to the Central Government and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for appropriate directions to Airlines for a full refund of all tickets issued before and after 24th March for the Flights that were supposed to operate and cancelled due to Coronavirus COVID-19 advisories, travel ban and lockdown.
Also, the application seeks direction to instruct all Airlines to accept bookings and issue tickets for travel beyond the date stipulated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation with an obligatory condition of a full refund for tickets, in the event of Flights not operated, until Government of India officially lift the ban on operation of all Domestic and International Flights.
Earlier on April 18, 2020, IATA Agents Association of India ( IAAI ) pointed out in the letter addressed to the Hon. Minister for Civil Aviation that, the Office Memorandum of the Ministry of Aviation dated 16th April, directing Airlines to provide a full refund of the amount paid only to those Passengers who booked their tickets during the lockdown period and leaving out those who booked tickets before lockdown for the Fights cancelled due to the lockdown amounts to a violation of Consumer Rights as well Fundamental Rights. Furthermore, IAAI earmarked the rationale to this by stating that the question of anyone booking a ticket during the lockdown does not arise, since Passenger Fights had already been cancelled and this makes the Office Memorandum dated 16th April “ambiguous” and “devoid of any logic”.
Recent media reports state that Aviation companies are estimated to be holding approximately Rs.6,000 Crore from refund payment to Indian Passengers since COVID-19 Travel Shutdown, which is a blatant violation of Consumer Rights, as Airlines are holding the hard-earned money of Passengers for unutilized services. Airline Companies, instead of showing humanitarian virtues, is rather seeing these challenging times as an opportunity to extract unlawful gains from the Passengers who are already in misery, due to uncertainties and the present policy is extremely harsh on the ordinary passengers, who booked tickets in advance for travel.
IAAI called the attention of MoCA & DGCA to the latest Enforcement Notice issued by U.S. Department of Transportation clarifying in the context of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency that, the U.S. and foreign Airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to Passengers for Flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the Passenger’s scheduled Flight and also the related statement issued by European Union, saying EU Law requires reimbursements to be made within seven days.
IAAI National President Biji Eapen and “IAAI Air Passenger Rights Forum” Experts Panel Members, Adv Ajith Marath (Former Member of IATA – APJC Gulf Area ) and Michael Joseph ( Ex. Senior V P AISATS/ Air India ) jointly stated that IAAI will take the responsibility to play a vital role in shaping the future of Travel & Tourism Industry for post-COVID -19, by founding eminence and will always stand with the Travel Agents as well Travelling Public in India, to endeavour all possible efforts to guard the wellbeing of the Travel & Tourism Industry, at all times.
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