‘No catch’ in proposal for full airline ticket refund: Govt

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) The Centre on Wednesday assured the Supreme Court that there is “no catch” in its proposal in connection with the refund of air tickets booked for travel during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said there is no catch in the refund proposal and if tickets were booked on March 15, before the lockdown period, then also there will be a full refund.

As senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for a petitioner, raised doubts whether the air ticket refund proposal of the Civil Aviation Ministry is confined to tickets booked during the lockdown or before the lockdown, Mehta reiterated the proposal covers all.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R.S. Reddy and M.R. Shah, referring to the recent affidavit filed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) saying tickets for travel during lockdown will be refunded, said the Centre should clarify on this crucial aspect of refund.

Mehta replied that he would file an additional affidavit clarifying the position in the matter. He also clarified that if a ticket was booked for travel from overseas to another foreign country, then the matter is not in the domain of the refund proposal.

Submitting that the proposal for ticket refund would have to be approved by the apex court, Mehta insisted that the government decided to refund the amount for the tickets and also tried to ensure that airlines don’t suffer.

Advocate Jose Abraham, representing petitioner Pravasi Legal Cell, said the affidavit filed by the Centre is fine, except to the fact that it is not clear as to whether the passengers who booked tickets prior to the lockdown are entitled to a full refund.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing SpiceJet, contended that his client agrees with the stand of the government. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Indigo, said though his client agrees with Centre’s proposal, yet there are few issues for which two-three days be given. The bench asked counsel to file its response to the affidavit.

Advocate Neela Gokhale, appearing for a travel agents association, said their funds are stuck as no refunds were given by the airlines, but Mehta said that they have consulted ticket agents before finalising the proposal.

The bench then asked Mehta to file an additional affidavit, and slated the matter for further hearing on September 23.

Senior advocate C.A. Sundaram, representing a passengers association, told the bench that there should be full refund of the ticket.

The Centre has proposed that a full refund should be given by the airlines within 15 days for tickets booked during the lockdown, and if any airline is in financial distress, then a credit shell should be provided up to March 31, 2021 on any route of the passengers’ choice. The full refund has been proposed for tickets booked during the lockdown on domestic, international and foreign airlines.

In an affidavit in the court, O.K. Gupta, Director, DGCA, said for the domestic airlines, if the tickets were booked directly with the airline or through an agent during the first lockdown period (March 25-April 14) for the journeys to be undertaken in both first and second lockdown period (March 25-May 3), then in all such cases, full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately.