Thousands of air passengers across the country are in limbo. The government has suspended all international and domestic air operations till April 14. Whether the air operations will resume post-April 14 remains uncertain even as the number of coronavirus cases in India continues to rise.
Every flyer wants to know if she would get a full refund on cancellation of her ticket.
India's aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has assured that it will try its best to protect the interest of passengers.
“We will take care of cancellation once the situation returns to normal,” Arun Kumar, Head, DGCA, told Outlook.
As of now, none of the airlines has offered to refund money. They have announced various options -- from rescheduling dates to offering credit notes -- on their social media accounts and websites.
Anxious passengers have been making frantic calls to airlines or the booking agencies for an update. Many passengers rue they fail to get through.
Industry experts believe that except IndiGo, which is cash-rich, none of the airlines can refund. However, they believe the DGCA or the Ministry of Civil Aviation should have issued a clear directive on March 24 when the lockdown came into force.
“It should have been spelt out in clear terms what airlines should do with air tickets,” Sudhakar Reddy, founder, Air Passengers Association of India (APAI), said. APAI aims to protect passengers’ interests and redress their grievances.
Reddy said that 85 per cent of people have booked tickets through an online portal, which are openly harassing them. “They are not ready to refund or reschedule leading to huge inconvenience to people. There is no clarity at all,” Reddy said.
Online portals dismiss the allegation saying they are bound by the change or refund policy of respective airlines.
Ajay Jasra, former Corporate Communications head, IndiGo, says the entire money transaction chain between agents and airlines has been broken, and therefore, it seems justified for all the stakeholders, especially the cash-starved airlines, not to refund passengers' money and convert into credit shell.
“All the airlines should extend the credit shell for a period one year from the date of booking. Also, the credit shell should be transferable, i.e. a person can book a ticket for any person family or outside,” Jasra said.
“However the same formula cannot be applied to the airlines with deep pockets; at least they should refund passengers' money,” he added.
What top airlines offer
It offers change and cancellation policy. According to its change policy, customers who have booked tickets for travel up to September 30, 2020, can get their travel date rescheduled for any date of choice. The airline has waived the change fee. However, in case of higher fare, the fare difference will apply.
As per its cancellation policy, customers who have booked tickets from IndiGo for travel up to September 30, 2020, “a reservation credit shell for the full amount will be credited which is valid for one year and you can use it to make another booking for the same passenger.” The airline offers any destination after paying the fare difference.
However, those who have got their tickets booked through online ticket platforms or travel agents, they should connect with the travel agent directly to make a new booking.
Air India –
If your travel date is between March 25, 2020, till April 14, 2020, you can change your date of travel up to one year. If your travel dates are between March 23, 2020, and April 30 2020, you can cancel your flight and keep your booking open to book future travel. Fare in difference if any will apply.
For travel between March 25, 2020, till April 14, 2020, the airline offers a credit shell worth the ticket amount which a customer can use to make a new booking for travel till February 28, 2021 (for the same passenger). For travel on or before May 31, 2020 , booking can be rescheduled free of cost for travel till September 30, 2020.
For the travel date between March 19, 2020, till April 15, 2020, a customer can reschedule his travel -- without any date-change charges -- for up to one year from the initial travel date. For travel date between April 15, 2020, and September 30, 2020, “you can reschedule your travel without any date change charges. Only fare difference will apply.”
The airline offers its customers, who have made bookings on or before 31-March-20, the flexibility of picking the alternate date of travel till 31-Dec-20 without any change fee. The customer will have to bear the difference in fair. “Your PNR has been automatically extended till 31-Dec-20 and remains valid in our system,” the airline tweeted.
Air Asia –
Those who have booked their tickets on or before March 23, 2020, for travel between March 23, 2020, and May 31 2020, can reschedule their bookings without any date-change charge and fare difference on the same route an unlimited number of times to travel before October 31, 2020. In case of cancellation, charges will apply.