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Covid cancellations: Refund money to flyers as soon as you get same from airlines, DGCA warns travel agents

NEW DELHI: The government on Friday warned travel agents not to delay giving refunds to passengers in cases where the money has been paid back by airlines to them. Also in such cases, agents have been directed not to give travel vouchers for future use to passengers.
If agents still resort to these malpractices, then the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will initiate action against them for violation of the Supreme Court’s October 1, 2020, judgment on refunds for flights cancelled during the pandemic, say officials.
The regulator on Friday issued an order saying that as per the SC directives, “it is the obligation of travel agents to immediately transfer refund to passenger once the same is received by such travel agent from airlines. Withholding of such refunded amount, by travel agents, in any manner whatsoever, would amount to gross and blatant violation SC directions.”
The DGCA notes that “in certain cases airlines have already refunded fare amount to travel agent(s) but travel agents(s) are withholding the said refund amount and are not refunding the same to the passengers…. certain travel agents though have received the refund from airline but instead of refunding it to passengers, are issuing vouchers to such passengers on their own and thus indirectly withholding the refund amount with them.”
While travel agents do not directly come under the DGCA, it can report violation of SC order and initiate action for contempt of court against the ones flouting the same. To avoid this situation, the regulator has asked travel agents and all other stakeholders to strictly comply with the Supreme Court’s October 1, 2020 judgment on airfare refunds. The apex court directed DGCA to ensure strict compliance of its directions.
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“The Supreme Court had directed that in case tickets were booked by passenger through travel agents and airline has refunded fare to such travel agent either on its own or in compliance with the SC (order), the travel agent shall immediately transfer that refund amount to such passenger…. travel agents can’t withhold the refund amount with themselves once the same is paid by the airline,” the DGCA order says.
Based on the SC order, the regulator had last week issued detailed guidelines for refund of fares for flights cancelled during Covid-19 lockdown. The DGCA regulator categorised refund seekers into three categories — passengers who booked tickets during lockdown for travel during lockdown from March 25, 2020, to May 24; those who booked tickets any time prior to lockdown for journey up to May 24, 2020, and flight cancelled due COVID-19 and finally Passengers who booked ticket anytime for journey after May 24 — and issued different directives for them.

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