Supreme Court Accepts DGCA Proposal For Flight Ticket Refunds

The DGCA has proposed flight ticket refunds through credit shells, which have to be utilised by March 31.

Grounded Vistara and Indigo aircraft stand in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)
Grounded Vistara and Indigo aircraft stand in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

The Supreme Court approved the aviation regulator’s proposal to refund flight tickets booked during the lockdown when air travel was barred to curb the spreading of the coronavirus.

According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's proposals, which are now the top court's directions as well:

  • For tickets booked during the lockdown for travel during that period, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without any cancellation charges.

  • If tickets have been booked during the lockdown through travel agents, in all such cases full refund shall be given by airlines immediately. The agents shall immediately pass on the amount to the passengers.

  • In all other cases, airlines will refund the amount to the passengers within 15 days from Oct. 1. If due to financial distress that is not possible, then airlines shall provide credit shell to passengers for bookings done personally or through agents, and that shall be used for future bookings before March 31, 2021.

  • Passengers will have the option to utilise the credit shell on any route of their choice or can transfer the credit shell to any person, including the travel agent through whom they have booked the ticket, and airlines shall honour such transfers.

  • In all cases where credit shell is issued there shall be an incentive to compensate the passenger from the date of cancellation up to June 30, 2020, in which event the credit shell shall be enhanced by 0.5% per month of the fare collected till June 2020. Subsequently, the incentive shall be enhanced by 0.75% per month up to March 31, 2021.

  • After the expiry of the March 31, 2021 deadline, the amount has to be refunded to the consumer.

  • Refunds will only be applicable for flights which originate in India.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan directed the DGCA to ensure implementation of the refund process. The court in its judgment also clarified that for tickets booked through travel agents, credit shells can only be utilised only through such agents.

The top court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a full refund of the tickets booked during the lockdown. The case first came up for hearing in April when the court agreed to hear the pleas and issued a notice to the government and the DGCA seeking its response to the petitioners’ contention.