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The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the airlines to refund the passengers who had to cancel the flight tickets booked during two-month long nationwide lockdown. A three-judge Bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, said for cancellation of bookings for travel after the lockdown period, airlines must give refunds within 15 days of the order. If the carriers are in financial distress, they can provide a credit to the flyers that can be redeemed until 31 March, 2021, the court further added.

The apex court's order will be applicable for the bookings made for both domestic and international tickets during the period.

Here is what Supreme Court said:

1) If a passenger booked a flight ticket during the lockdown period (from March 25 to May 24) for travel during lockdown period and the airline has received payment for booking of air ticket for travel during the same period, for both domestic and international air travel and refund is sought by the passenger against that booking being cancelled, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without any cancellation charges. The refund shall be made within a period of three weeks from the date of cancellation, the order said.


2) If the tickets have been booked during the lockdown period through a travel agent for travel within the lockdown period, in all such cases full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately. On such refund, the amount shall be passed on immediately by the agent to the passengers, the court said.

3)"If on account of financial distress, any airline or airlines are not able to do so, they shall provide credit shell, equal to the amount of fare collected, in the name of passenger when the booking is done either directly by the passenger or through travel agent so as to consume the same on or before 31 March, 2021. It is open to the passenger either to utilise such credit shell up to 31 March, 2021 , on any route of his choice or the passenger can transfer the credit shell to any person including the travel agent through whom he or she has booked the ticket and the airlines shall honour such a transfer," the order said.


4) The credit shell issued in the name of the passenger can be utilised up to March 31, 2021, the bench said, adding that the and the concerned airline shall honour such a transfer by devising a mechanism to facilitate such a transfer. The court also made it clear that such credit shell can be utilised by the concerned agent through whom the ticket is purchased, for third-party use.

In cases where tickets are booked through an agent, credit shell as issued in the name of the passenger which is not utilized by 31 March 2021, refund of the fare collected shall be made to the same account from which account amount was received by the airline.

5) "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% of the face value for every month or part thereof between the date of cancellation and June 30, 2020. Thereafter the value of the credit shell shall be enhanced by 0.75% of the face value per month up to March 31, 2021," the order said.


The Bench said that the passengers who booked tickets at any period of time but for travel after May 24, refund of fares to the passengers covered under this category shall be governed by the provisions of the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR).

"Even for international travel, when the tickets have been booked on an Indian carrier and the booking is ex-India, if the tickets have been booked during the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown period, immediate refund shall be made," the order said.

"If the tickets are booked for international travel on a foreign carrier and the booking is ex-India during the lockdown period for travel within the lockdown period, full refund shall be given by the airlines and said amount shall be passed on immediately by the agent to the passengers, wherever such tickets are booked through agents. In all other cases airline shall refund the collected amount to the passenger within a period of three weeks," it added.


The court has asked the Ministry of civil aviation to issue compliance notification in the matter.

The lockdown, imposed on March 25, banned domestic and international travel in the country. The domestic flight services in India restarted on May 25 in a limited phase.
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