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Covid-19 Pandemic: UNCTAD Acknowledges Demand of Refund against Flight Cancellation, Says MGP

Representative image. (Pic Source: AFP Relaxnews)

Representative image. (Pic Source: AFP Relaxnews)

On April 16, the aviation ministry said passengers can ask airlines for full refund if the bookings were done during the first phase of lockdown for travel up to May 3.

Mumbai Grahak Panchayat on Saturday claimed that UNCTAD has acknowledged its demand of refund to passenger for their cancelled flights, and asked other member countries to advise airlines to respect air passengers' rights.

Consumer rights protection body MGP in April had urged the civil aviation ministry to direct airlines to refund customers against the cancelled flights based on the date of travel and not as per the date of booking and sought suitable modification in one of its order on this issue.

On April 16, the aviation ministry said passengers can ask airlines for full refund if the bookings were done during the first phase of lockdown for travel up to May 3.

All commercial flight services were suspended in March after the government imposed a pan-India lockdown in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

Though flight services on domestic routes have been partially restored from May 25, international flights, except special operations, still remain shut.

"Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP), approached UNCTAD inviting their attention to UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection (UNGCP) and urged UN intervention to protect consumer interest against abusive practices of airlines to deny passengers their legitimate refunds and to insist for credit vouchers for future travel unilaterally.

"Acknowledging that MGP India called for international guidelines to address this global issue, UNCTAD (UN Conference on Trade and Development) has now called upon UN Member States on June 4 to advise airlines to respect air passengers' rights and provide full refunds if consumers don't want to accept vouchers and to provide appropriate and complete information regarding consumers' options," MGP Chairman Shirish V Deshpande said in a media release.

Most of the airlines world over started denying refund to passengers who had booked flights that had to be cancelled during the lockdown announced by a number of countries.

Instead of refund, these Airlines created credit shells and offered passengers the option to use their amounts for future travel.

Considering the present COVID-19 scenario, not many passengers were keen to opt for such credit voucher schemes offered by airlines and insisted on refunds, according to UNCTAD.

Global lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19 currently affect half of the world's population and 4.5 million flights are expected to be cancelled until June.

"MGP pointed out that such intervention and uniform guidelines by UNCTAD will avoid spate of litigations against airlines and the issue can be resolved in amicable manner. While pressing for refund, MGP also pointed out to UNCTAD that airlines may be directed to make their credit voucher schemes more attractive, more flexible, transferable and valid for a longer period beyond one year," Deshpande said in the release.

The Panchayat also recently undertook a survey of airline passengers where more than 86 per cent passengers insisted on refunds and rejected credit voucher option which was also conveyed to UNCTAD officials, he said.