Dubai: UAE residents welcome the Supreme Court of India’s judgement directing that all airline tickets that were cancelled during the COVID-19 lockdown are refunded.

A three-judge panel, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, passed the order after considering recommendations from the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to refund ticket fares.

The timeframe for airline companies to refund the ticket charges to passengers is March 31 next year, the court has ordered. Bookings made for travelling during lockdown need to be refunded immediately “since airlines were not supposed to book such tickets”, the court order reads.

The airlines concerned must devise a mechanism to facilitate such a transfer,” said the judgment.

The Supreme Court order came through following a petition by the Pravasi Legal Cell (PLC) and Air Passengers Association who demanded a refund for tickets booked for travel during the period of lockdown. “Many passengers booked their flight tickets in advance since the rates are low. These people could not travel unfortunately due to the borders closing. The Supreme Court order has come as a huge relief as a result,” said Sreedharan Prasad, UAE county head of the Pravasi Legal Cell.

According to the Supreme Court of India, this is applicable to both domestic and international tickets.

Passengers who booked tickets through travel agents can collect the refund amount once the money is credited back into the agent’s account, the court has ordered.

Ruling for international travellers

“An immediate refund shall be made for international airline travel tickets issued by Indian carriers during the lockdown period,” the court order reads, a copy of which has been handed to the Pravasi Cell.

“If tickets are booked for international travel on a foreign carrier during the lockdown period, a full refund must be given immediately to the passengers by the agent, wherever such tickets are booked through agents. In other cases, the airline shall refund the passenger within a period of three weeks,” the order reads.

“Millions were affected when air travel was cancelled in India due to COVID-19 and the subsequent imposition of a lockdown. More importantly, there wasn’t any provision to receive a refund for the tickets thus cancelled. PLC could bring this matter up to the Supreme Court and win a favourable judgement. We are sure that this order will benefit millions of ordinary Indians during this period of challenges,” added advocate Jose Abraham Pravasi Legal Cell global president.

“If a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown (March 25 to April 14) and the airline has received payment – for both domestic and international air travel – the airline shall refund the full amount without levy of cancellation charges. The refund shall be made within a period of three weeks from the date of request of cancellation,” explained Prasad.

“For those who made bookings prior to lockdown for a period up till May 24, the refund would be governed by the credit shell scheme and the incentives thereunder,” he added.

The court has asked the Ministry of Civil Aviation to issue a compliance notification in the matter.