Airlines are now gradually recovering from the unprecedented crisis in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and their survival largely depends on how successfully they handled passengers during the distressing period of Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic.
Reference to the PIL before Hon. Supreme Court of India, filed by Pravasi Legal Cell (PLC) and impleaded by IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) on the refund of Air Tickets, which came for hearing on September 9, 2020, and both the PLC and IAAI were IAAI represented by Adv. Jose Abraham (AOR – Supreme Court).
Earlier, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in an affidavit informed the Supreme Court that, Airlines might fully refund all domestic and international tickets booked for travel during lockdown between March 25 and May 3, 2020. Whereas the MoCA order 16.04.2020, ratifying the ticket refunding between March 25 and May 3, 2020, itself was ambiguous and devoid of any logic. Allowing Airlines to issue tickets for the journey during the lockdown period itself was illegal, arbitrary, especially during a period when all national and international airports were closed operation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reference to the direction of Hon. Supreme Court on September 9, 2020, to the regulator DGCA to file an additional affidavit within one week in this respect, IAAI National President Mr. Biji Eapen said that “We all are facing an economic crisis that could reshape how we survive, live, and travel. Air Traffic is now changed to an age of “Masks” / “Sanitizers “/ “Social distancing” etc. and there could be a lot of operational revivals or significant changes in the coming future”.
Hence, proposals of DGCA as per the present Affidavit submitted to the Hon. Supreme Court of India regarding the refund of Air Tickets is not sufficient enough to address the core issue of relief to everyone, whose rights cancelled because of lockdown, and according to IAAI the option of refund is “the prerogative of the Passenger and not a default practice of the Airline. We want the Regulator and the operators to comply with Aircraft Rules 1937 and the provisions of the air ticket refund as contained in the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) 2008.”
To safeguard the Consumer Rights of Air Passengers and to secure their hard-earned money paid for Air Tickets, the IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) reiterate our demands as follows:
- Airlines must pay a full refund of all tickets issued before and after March 24 for the Flights that were supposed to operate and cancelled due to Coronavirus COVID-19 advisories, travel ban, and lockdown.
- Passengers willing to travel conveniently at a later period may provide with Credit shell.
The statement continued, that as far as the Travel & Tourism industry is concerned no travel agent or airline can survive without passengers. The airlines are currently not providing full refunds to passengers for cancelled flights due to a liquidity crunch. Airlines holding refund amount in the absence of service as per Contract of Carriage is taking advantage of “profit over people” as the hard-earned money of passengers are being held by the Airlines without providing any services.
We want to re-assure that, IAAI will always stand with the Travel Agents and Travelling Public in India by way of taking proactive measures for the collective wellbeing of the Travel & Tourism Industry. And this is the time for everyone to understand the value of service quality and customer satisfaction.
‘Post-COVID 19 travel will be an age of sanitized travel with stringent regulatory formalities and regulations. IAAI is working on a unique initiative to getting Travelling Public in India comfortable with travelling again when the resumption of flights become normal, by launching a Public Awareness Mission with the Tagline – “CONSULT YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR, NOT INTERNET “. IAAI is forming a Working Group to spearhead this task and will solicit patronage from International Organizations. Also, extending an open invitation to all travel, tourism, and aviation industry stakeholders to work together as a unit towards the goal.