Friday, October 02, 2020

Travel agents' body says full cash refunds needed from airlines for cancelled flights

Mumbai: Travel agents apex body TAAI on Thursday said it needs total cash refunds from the airlines for the cancelled flights, saying both the community members and the customers are struggling with liquidity issues. The statement comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court order directing refund of air tickets for travel during the COVID-19 lockdown period from March 25 to May 24.

The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) in the statement said that while it respects the order but feels that it is a "status quo" of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) earlier directions to the airlines. In its order, the Supreme Court directed refund of air tickets (domestic and international) for travel during the COVID-19 lockdown period from March 25 to May 24 within three weeks from the date of the cancellation of flights.

Accepting the Centre's proposal, the top court directed that if the tickets have been booked through an agent for travel within the lockdown period, in all such cases, full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately and the amount shall be passed on immediately by the agent to the passengers.

All commercial passenger services both on domestic and international routes were suspended in late March to combat the coronavirus pandemic. While flight services on domestic routes resumed from May 25 in a graded manner, commercial international operations by airlines remain suspended as of now. "Agents and customers are struggling with a cash crunch, and basic interest paid to banks is at much higher rates. The agent fraternity needed total cash refunds. We the travel agents have become financiers for the airlines," TAAI said in the statement.

"We respect the judgment of the Supreme Court but feel that the judgment is status quo to what DGCA has previously directed the airlines on. Nothing really to appease our challenges and multiple communications and meetings had with MoCA and the airlines in the matter," TAAI President Jyoti Mayal said in the statement. The top court's order came following a batch of petitions, including by NGOs and passengers associations, seeking complete refund of ticket fare for the flights cancelled.

The association also said it is "deeply concerned" on the submissions of certain airlines, that they shall "shut down" in case of pressure for refunds. "What if airlines default before March 31, 2021? Who is going to be responsible? The government needs to ensure appropriate assurances from the airlines concerned so as to secure the money," said TAAI Vice-President Jay Bhatia.

01/10/20 PTI/

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