Just a few days ago, Supreme Court sought responses from the Centre and DGCA on a plea seeking directions to airlines operating domestic and international fights in India to refund full amount collected for tickets due to cancellation of flights in wake of the lockdown and restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19 pandemic.
The response was sought after an NGO filed a plea in the apex court demanding full refund on tickets. A lot of people complained on social media that airlines are refusing ticket money and instead, issuing credit shell against the said flights.
The Civil Aviation ministry had to then issue guidelines that any ticket booked after March 23, when the first lockdown was announced till May 3, when the third phase of lockdown got over, is liable to get full refund without cancellation charges.
The ministry also said that airlines are not to start flight bookings until govt says so. It seems like, some airlines have started bookings for flights from June 1 onwards, amid commercial flight services remaining suspended till May 31 due to the coronavirus lockdown.
We tried to book tickets on Vistara, Spicejet and Indigo airlines, all of which are accepting bookings for travel date post May 31, for a reasonable price. Delhi to Mumbai one way flight ticket is being offered as low as Rs 3,000 to lure customers.
However, the question remains, if booking your fight tickets will result in another wave of credit shells? Since govt has not revealed any definite date to restart domestic flights, it will be interesting to see what explanation airlines will give to customers, for they have lost confidence due to the earlier no-moral business ethics shown by airlines.
When contacted by PTI, a SpiceJet spokesperson, in a statement, said," Our international bookings are closed till June 15." There was no official comments from IndiGo, Vistara and GoAir on commencement of bookings.
Air India, on the other hand, has not started any bookings as of now. Just a few days ago, in an internal mail shot to the employees, Air India said that flight services will be suspended till May 31.
On the flipside, this can be seen as a sign of things getting back to normalcy. Since airlines know the implication of booking the flights without assured date, it is a possibility that there's some sort of internal communication by govt to the air carriers.
This however, has not gone well with the Air Passengers Association of India (APAI). President of the body, Sudhakara Reddy had flagged about the airlines' commencing bookings. "We understand 6E (IndiGo), SpiceJet, GoAir have started taking bookings for flights, imagining that flights will operate from 1st June. Please don't fall for it. Your money will become a credit shell, instead keep it safe at home," he claimed in a tweet.
So what can go wrong with your money if government further decides to extend the lockdown and ban on flights continues? Well at max, your ticket money will be safe with the company as a credit shell. However, given the directive by the aviation ministry to refund the money for all tickets booked during the lockdown, your money might be refunded in full within a week's time or 30 days if you have booked it through travel partner.
But if everything goes well, flights may very well resume operations and you can travel once again.