Airlines aren’t giving full refund on cancelled tickets, despite the aviation ministry and the regulator asking them to consider waiver of the fee for cancellation and modification of tickets in view of the Covid-19 outbreak, reports The Economic Times.
Airlines are only providing waiver of date-change fee but not offering a refund for cancellations or destination change, among others, travel industry insiders said.
The aviation ministry, on March 9, had sent an email to airlines asking them to provide refunds. “In view of the evolving global situation related to Covid-19 … you are requested to consider waiving cancellation charges, modification charges, etc., to mitigate the difficulties faced by the passengers,” the ministry said, adding: “Such passenger-oriented actions would help the airline retain the confidence of their customers.”
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had issued a circular on March 12, asking airlines to do the same. “In the current scenario, it would be appropriate if airlines support their passengers in this tough time by waiving cancellation and reschedule charges or by providing any other incentive,” the circular read.
Airlines, however, remain defiant. “These are difficult times and cancellation numbers are huge and there is no way airlines can refund all of it. We do not have that kind of money to process refund,” said an airline executive, who did not want to be identified.
Government officials admitted that airlines were not providing cancellation fee waiver but added that the government might not act. “It is probably not the best time in view of the financial problems airlines are facing due to Covid-19,” said a senior government official, who did not want to be named.
Emails sent to IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir, AirAsia India did not elicit any response till press time Thursday. Vistara responded by confirming that only date change fee was being waived.
“We are offering customers the flexibility on bookings made on or before March 31, 2020, for travel commencing on or before 30 April 2020 for one-time free-of-charge rescheduling to an alternate travel date until December 31, 2020. While Vistara will not charge any reissuance fee, fare difference applies,” Vistara said in an email response.
Meanwhile, some online travel agents are offering exceptions on tickets cancelled on their websites.
“At Yatra.com, we have now waived our flight cancellation charges till March 31, 2020,” cofounder and chief executive Dhruv Shringi said.
Shringi said the policy for date change and rescheduling charges was set by the respective airline or hotel.
“For regions where airlines have cancelled their existing and new flights, we are offering full refund to our customers. We are constantly in touch with our airline and hotel partners on working out more benign policies for rescheduling and cancellations and passing on these benefits to our customers,” he said.
MakeMyTrip is also not levying any fee for processing cancellation or rescheduling requests for domestic as well as international flights up to April 30, its chief business officer said.
“We continue to work closely with all our airline partners for lenient customer policies for date change, cancellations and waivers in the face of evolving travel situation. We are also seamlessly passing on waiver benefits to our customers, wherever applicable,” Saujanya Shrivastava said in an email response.
Ixigo is providing a no-questions-asked full refund on international flight bookings for countries most impacted by Covid-19, irrespective of airlines’ own policies in this regard.
“Ixigo's full refund policy is valid for all flight bookings to China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Spain, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. The policy is applicable on both one-way and return bookings for travel dates up to March 31, 2020,” ixigo said.
The travel service provider, however, does not have similar offer for domestic passengers.
Cleartrip, in an email response, said it was offering refunds as directed by the respective airline.