Writ plea for airline refunds

In a bold move that can possibly bring some respite to travel agents across the country, TAFI has asked the Supreme Court of India to intervene in a petition concerning refund of air tickets from airlines for travel during the lockdown period.

Pradip Lulla, Acting President and Vice President, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), has revealed that the association has asked the Supreme Court to intervene in a petition concerning the refund of air tickets to passengers from airlines in cash for tickets bought for travel during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The primary plea was moved by the NGO Pravasi Legal Cell on April 27, 2020. He says, “This was done on May 6, 2020 through NGO Pravasi Legal on behalf of TAFI. But this is for all air ticket issuing agents in India. I estimate that the total volume of refunds would come to around `800-900 crore, as bookings were made not just for the
summer holidays but also for student travel. This is for bookings made for all airlines – Indian as well as international. While we have approached the
concerned authorities in the past through FAITH, the airlines have said that they will give refunds only after three months.”

Travel agents across the country are being squeezed as fliers demand cash refunds. TAFI hopes that the refund should be paid to source, i.e. the travel
agents from whom tickets are booked and issued on nonoperation of flights during the lockdown and beyond.

“We are going through a lot of hardship from passengers of our corporate clients where refunds are being adjusted without the receipt of the same from the airline. In the low-cost model, the refunds are being amalgamated in the login account of the agent without them receiving cash. We are awaiting the early date of the motion to be heard and seek relief to our travel agent members,” Lulla shares.

Crucial funds remain blocked with the airlines for travel not undergone and which, in fact, has been cancelled. Lulla adds that some airlines have divided
their bookings as per zones where Zone 1 is US, Zone 2 is Europe, and Zone 3 is Southeast Asia and for these they are giving refunds, but not for India that comes under Zone 4.

“In Zone 4, they are charging penalty for cash refunds even when flight schedules are cancelled. We hope to hear from the Supreme Court on this
issue soon,” Lulla adds on a positive note.

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