The Supreme Court on Thursday approved all recommendations made by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on refund of passengers' tickets of flights, cancelled due to lockdown, through credit shells. The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah clarified that tickets booked through travel agents will be refunded to them through, and not directly to the passengers, Bar and Bench reported.
The court had earlier asked the Centre to file an additional affidavit clarifying how travel agents will make good the loss incurred by them if the refund of airline fare for tickets booked during the lockdown is made directly to passengers.
The top court had last week reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions including by NGOs and passengers associations seeking refund of ticket fare for the flights which were cancelled due to the pandemic.
When the court reserved its judgment last week, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had clarified the Centre's stand that the credit shell facility could not be availed by travel agents who booked tickets during lockdown. He said, "So far as travel agents are concerned, we cannot regulate them. We don't have control over it. But the suggestion is that a passenger can use the credit shell only through the agent."
He had informed the apex court that transferrable refund vouchers can be issued to the passengers, which can be used by the travel agents who had booked their tickets for the flights which were cancelled later.
He explained modalities of refund to be given to the passengers and how it would work as asked by the top court on its last hearing.
The bench asked if the refund voucher is not used within the deadline then will the money go to the account of the travel agent?
Mehta replied that the government does not know these travel agents or recognize them since there is no registration and an agent buys tickets in blocks as per the contract between him and the airline. He had earlier said that the government has taken a decision of refund keeping in mind the welfare of all and an appropriate solution has been worked out.
On September 9, the top court had asked the Centre to clarify whether it is willing to give complete refund of air tickets booked for travel during the COVID-19 lockdown. The DGCA, in its affidavit, said that full refund shall be provided by airlines immediately for tickets booked during the COVID-19 lockdown for domestic or international travel within the lockdown period.
It had said if airlines are not able to refund "on account of financial distress, they shall provide a credit shell equal to the amount of fare collected and this shall be issued in the name of the passenger who has booked the ticket for domestic travel directly or through an agent, including online platforms".