Passengers fume as airlines refuse to refund ticket money

Chennai: The lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus has brought various industries to standstill, especially the aviation sector.

As a result, many airlines have left passengers in the lurch with their ‘credit shell’ policy.

It seems that the passengers, who had booked tickets in advance for flying between 25 March and 3 May (lockdown period), will not get any refund.

Instead, they have to depend on the airlines for the next available date to fly again.

Bhavik S from Mumbai, a principal associate for a software company in the city, had flown to his hometown in Mumbai ahead of the Janta Curfew.

He had pre-booked his return tickets. But, unfortunately, with the lockdown being announced, he had to stay back and cancel his ticket scheduled for 8 April.

However, when he tried to cancel, his airline shot him a mail saying operations were suspended until 30 April.

“Your money is safe in the form of a credit shell, valid for one year from the date of issuance,” this is what the communication notified.

Bhavik is not affected by the decision. He anyway has to travel back to the city for work.

But, there are many others who may not want to take up the journey again and simply want refund.

“I booked ticket to Vishakapatnam to attend the wedding of my friend’s son. But I could not go due to the lockdown. Now I want refund, but the airline is refusing it,” says Navaneethakrishnan, a trader.

Another drawback of the decision being, the passengers are now at the mercy of airlines to get a seat on a date which is convenient to them.

Another flier Sruthi (name changed) had a flight from Chennai to Delhi on 26 March.
When she cancelled the ticket following the curfew, she got an email from the airline.

“The mail was disturbing to me. They said I can use the ticket amount as a credit and fly on the same route on a later date for a year. I shot an email back saying I may not want to fly on the route and wanted the money back. I have not heard from them as yet”.

The biggest grouse passengers have is that a ticket is booked based on time and seat availability.

And if one airline does not have it, they move to the next. With money being tied up at one, they now don’t have any option.

An official said the passengers can consider it as a deposit and use it later.

He said that most airlines are still not sure about when they would be operational again and hence, could not comment on the issue right now.

Majority of the fliers in the March had booked tickets for professional reasons, Anand (name changed) who works for a software firm, says, the company had cancelled a number of tickets for its employees who were travelling on work and were onsite.

“Currently, 20 employees are onsite in USA, UK, Croatia, Panama City and  Germany. They are unable to come to India. Many of the tickets were automatically cancelled as the airports were shut down. Travels in March and April are severely affected.”

He added that the employees were taken care of.

Most of them wanted to come back as India is safe compared to most other countries.

“Companies are giving all moral support to employees so they would not to panic and are waiting for any airline to open operations once the lockdown is over to book tickets to bring them back.”

Naomi N