Airlines violating MCA order by not refunding full amount for tickets booked during COVID-19 Lockdown: Plea in Supreme Court
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Airlines violating MCA order by not refunding full amount for tickets booked during COVID-19 Lockdown: Plea in Supreme Court

It is contended that airlines, instead of providing full refund of the amount collected for cancelled tickets, are providing a credit shell, valid up to one year.

Debayan Roy

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court stating that airlines operating both domestic and international flights in India are violating the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) order which directed them to pay full refund for tickets booked during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

NGO Pravasi Legal Cell has moved the plea through advocate Jose Abraham.

It is argued that the failure of the airlines to refund the full amount collected for tickets, following the cancellation of flights in the wake of restrictions imposed by the government to contain COVID-19, is in violation of the Civil Aviation Requirement, 2008 issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

It is contended that airlines, instead of providing full refund of the amount collected for cancelled tickets, are providing a credit shell, valid up to one year.

On April 16, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) issued an office memorandum directing all airline operators to refund the full amount collected for all tickets booked during the first phase of the lockdown period (from March 25 to April 14) for domestic and international air travel.

The MCA memorandum further directed that if a passenger seeks refund for the cancellation of a ticket booked during the first lockdown phase for travel during the second lockdown period (from April 15 to May 3), then also the airline is to refund the full amount collected without the levy of any cancellation charges.

However, the petitioner points out that the government directive only orders the airlines to refund those tickets that were booked during the lockdown period.

Thereby, it is highlighted that the Office Memorandum "leaves out the vast majority of passengers who had booked tickets before the flights were banned and thus indirectly approves the practice of the Airlines providing Credit Shell for booking effected before the lockdown, though the same clearly violates the refund rules of the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)."

The petitioner states that there should be no need for a passenger to request a refund, because it is the duty of the airlines to start the refund process immediately after a flight cancellation.

Adding to this, it is pointed out that there is no "question of anyone booking a ticket during the lockdown period knowing the fact that scheduled passenger flights were cancelled for period of travel."

"This makes the (April 16) Office Memorandum of the Ministry of Civil Aviation ambiguous and devoid of any logic."
Plea filed in Supreme Court

In view of these submissions, the petitioner has prayed for a declaration that the action on the part of the airlines is in violation of DGCA Rules.

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