Covid-19 ticket refunds: Airlines say cleared most flyer dues, but have they really?
Some passengers allege they are not being able to book tickets with credit shell, others fear loss of dues with no immediate plans to travel
New Delhi: Even after months of tussle between airlines and customers, refund for tickets cancelled during the lockdown remains a bone of contention.
On one hand, the government and airlines claim that they have cleared maximum refunds. On the other, air passengers remain confused over the delay and use of credit shells.
Rajni Bajracharya, who had booked four tickets from Kolkata to Delhi and was supposed to fly on April 11, got credit shells but there is no one to explain to her how she can use it.
“My parents are aged 66 and 82, and now due to the pandemic, they will not be able to fly. I don’t know how to use their credits. I have tried (calling) customer care several times but got no reply. I just want to know if we can get the real money in return or we can transfer these ticket points to another traveller who would be interested in travelling within February 2021,” Bajracharya said.
Similar is the problem faced by Shrawan Narayan Raikwar, who on February 19, booked a ticket with IndiGo for a flight from Srinagar to Amritsar. “I was supposed to fly on May 14, 2020, but all flight operations were cancelled due to the lockdown. I have got a credit shell, which is valid for a year, but I will not be able to travel for the next one year and I am seeking refund but there is no reply from the airlines,” Raikwar said.
Sagar Gupta, who booked a SpiceJet ticket for a flight from Kolkata to New Delhi and was set to fly on May 27, is still waiting for the refund of the credit shell. “After the announcement made by the court, I enquired with the customer care. They assured that credit points have been given but when I tried booking another ticket there was no credit shell in my account,” alleged Gupta.
Dinesh Kharwar, who got a credit shell of Rs 43,000 also alleged that he was not able to book air tickets using it. “Now I am trying to book my tickets but the SpiceJet website is not allowing. When I enquired with customer care, they said as I booked my tickets from Goibibo, I would need their agent ID. How could a customer arrange it? This is clear harassment,” Kharwar said.
There are many who are still waiting for refunds. But the aviation ministry on Friday said that the airlines have refunded almost three-fourth of the tickets cancelled during the Covid-19 lockdown. In a tweet, the ministry said Rs 3,200 crore has been refunded to 74.3% of the passengers who had their flights cancelled due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown earlier this year.
Tickets worth Rs 219 crore, on the other hand, have been converted into credit shells voluntarily by passengers for future travel.
In a tweet, the aviation ministry said: “Pursuant to Supreme Court’s order on ticket refund, 74.3% of total 55,23,940 PNRs amounting to Rs 3,200 crore have been refunded. Rest are in process. 2,06,119 credit shells worth Rs 219 crore created by airlines with consent of passengers. (We are) constantly monitoring the situation.”
IndiGo claims that it has already paid Rs 1,000 crore as refunds, representing 90% of the total amount owed to its customers for cancelled flights.
The airline added that it will “complete payment against all pending credit shells (and refunds) latest by January 31, 2021.”
"Refunds are governed by the order of the Supreme Court and we are adhering to those directions," the SpiceJet spokesperson told Plane Vanilla.
The Supreme Court had on October 1 said that a full and immediate refund should be given to passengers for the air tickets cancelled between March 25 and May 24. No scheduled domestic and international passenger flights operated in the country during this period.