Coronavirus lockdown | Refund fares to passengers, airlines told

Airlines will have to issue refunds within three weeks of receiving a request. 

Updated - April 17, 2020 12:12 am IST

Published - April 16, 2020 04:54 pm IST - New Delhi

Representational image

Representational image

There is some relief for air travellers as the government on Thursday asked airlines to refund air fares instead of blocking passengers’ money in credit shells. But this will benefit only those who booked flight after the lockdown came into force three weeks ago for travel post April 14.

“If a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown period and the airline has received the payment for booking of air ticket during the first lockdown period (March 25 to April 14) for travel during the second lockdown period (April 15-May 3) for both domestic and international air travel, the airline shall refund the full amount with levy of cancellation charges,” said an order issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

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Airlines will have to issue refunds within three weeks of receiving a request. 

The order comes two days after the government extended the lockdown till May 3 and follows demands to protect interests of passengers. 

The Ministry had earlier held a meeting with airline CEOs on the matter. Importantly, passengers who had booked their tickets before the lockdown period kicked in will not benefit from the decision. Their money will be parked with the airlines and can be redeemed when they make a fresh booking.

Credit shell

Following the ban on international travel from March 22 and domestic travel from March 25, Indian airlines offered passengers a credit shell where their fare amount would remain parked up to a period of one year.

Passengers could then re-book a flight with that credit amount on any route.

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Earlier this week, aviation firm CAPA had criticised the government for allowing airlines to do advance booking for travel after April 14 even though it was unclear whether the flight ban would be lifted. CAPA said that continuing with credit shells would be “unfair on consumers as some may not have a need to travel in future during the validity of their credit and will lose their money.”


The government, however, has not restricted airlines from allowing advance bookings for the travel period after May 3, and it is likely that airlines may be similarly be asked to refund airfares to passengers in case some or all flights continue to remain suspended. 

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