Synopsis: A bench of three judges has reserved the order on Air Ticket refunds, but such refunds scheme would be given only to passengers and not to travel agents.
In a petition requesting the total refund of the fare for airline tickets booked during the lockdown interval of COVID-19, the Supreme Court reserved its order.
A bench of three judges, Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, and M.R. Shah was informed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that the credit shell scheme would be given only to passengers and not to travel agents.
The Government has submitted that, even though the travel agent is involved in the purchasing of any ticket on behalf of any customer, the only mode recognised under the DGCA regulatory framework remains the primary contract between the airlines and the customer alone. The DGCA only plays a part in booking made directly by passengers and would thus not play a role in such a private pre-block contract for commercial gains.
Advocate Harshavardhan Bhende, appearing for the petitioner, argued that it is a sad thing to say that travel agents are not recognised because communication with the travel agents is achieved while the passenger manifest is prepared. The Centre has also told the Court that no refund will be provided for flights originating in India, irrespective of national or foreign airlines, as those flights are regulated by the origin regulatory framework of the country, irrespective of whether or not the airline is Indian.
In the meanwhile, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, arguing for GoAir India, has requested relief from the Court of the Government of India’s March 31 deadline because he says it is unrealistic. He added that the working capital of GoAir has been frozen. Therefore, their financial problems should be considered as they are able to offer refundsDatar added that as fuel prices have gone up by 78%, GoAir will not pay in 6 months, as its capital has been frozen and the RBI has not offered any relief.
Datar stated that all airlines indicated that by March 31 it was difficult to pay, especially after their flight prices were also capped.