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Wednesday, 10 June, 2020, 14 : 00 PM [IST]

TAFI files writ petition in SC seeking cash refunds from airlines

The Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court (SC) seeking clear directives from the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on cash refunds from airlines amid massive cancellation of bookings due to the lockdown and complete suspension of air traffic.

Pradip Lulla, President, TAFI, said, “Earlier we had intervened in a petition filed by Pravasi Legal Cell, which is an NGO. However, on Friday June 5, 2020, we filed a sole petition in the Supreme Court against MoCA and DGCA. Refunds have become a contentious issue, and the matter has become even more complicated with the resumption of domestic flights. Policies are not stable, and our credibility as travel agents is at stake.”

Citing examples of the US Department of Transportation and European Commission who have directed airlines to issue cash refunds or face sanctions, Lulla said it is surprising that the Indian regulator continues to be ‘ambiguous’  in its approach. “The charter of civil aviation clearly states that passengers are liable for cash refunds, treating it as a fundamental right. However, our demands have been falling on deaf ears with airlines refusing cash refunds and instead forcing us to accept credit shell or refund vouchers. At a time when airlines globally are going bust, we fear the booking money being stuck with the airlines would turn into unsecured credit, and our credibility with the customer will only take a beating further.”

Lulla said that earlier IATA followed a weekly settlement system, and airline refunds were issued in 7 days. “However, IATA, through its 824r resolution is asking agents to file RA (Refund Application) process. The lifting of the lockdown has only complicated the matter further. Refund for cancellation of flight is a fundamental right of the passenger, and when as travel agents were left with no recourse we decided to file the petition. We expect the petition to be taken up for hearing in 10 days.”

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