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Air India to flyers’ rescue: Waives fare difference, cancellation fees for some passengers

(Representative image)

NEW DELHI: In a major relief to passengers, Air India has decided that passengers who booked tickets for domestic flights during the lockdown for travel in that period will be allowed to rebook for flights anytime up to August 24, 2020, “at no extra charge”.
The airline took this passenger-friendly move with resumption of domestic flights from last Monday. “Further if passengers have booked for flights post May 25, 2020, which have been cancelled, he/she is eligible for refund, cancellation charges will stand waived and passengers will be allowed for full refund,” an AI circular issued Sunday says.
Hopefully private airlines will take a cue from us, said an AI official.
“On resumption of select domestic Flights from May 25, it has been decided that any passenger holding AI confirmed tickets with travel dates during the lockdown period, March 23 to May 31, and have had their flight cancelled will be allowed to book in available flights for the period May 25 till August 24, 2020, at no extra charge… the same applies only for passengers who have booked flights post May 25, 2020, but flight has been cancelled,” it says.
This move applies to passengers who booked directly from AI website/office and through travel agents, said an airline official.
“In case of passenger requesting a change of routing, only the rerouting charges will be waived, but applicable difference of fare will be charged…. Decision regarding refunds for earlier period will be intimated later,” the circular says.
Refunds has been a major issue with passengers during the lockdown. While schedule flights were cancelled during this period, airlines gave two options to passengers: refund with hefty cancellation charge or airlines retaining the money paid in a shell to be used for future travel by passenger within a certain timeframe.
The government gave a very partial relief to flyers by asking asking airlines to give full refund only to those who booked tickets in first lockdown period (March 25-April 14) to travel in the second lockdown period (April 15-May 3).
While passengers are understandably upset, private Indian carriers — most nearly bankrupt now — say they are unable to give full refunds to passengers for flights cancelled in the lockdown period due to a severe liquidity crunch. Like airlines abroad, they are asking passengers to utilise the money paid for flying anytime within up to a year. Passengers seeking refunds are made to suffer big cancellation charges. There has been a major public outcry on this issue.
Indian carriers’ stand of not giving cash refunds and keeping amount paid as voucher for future travel has been endorsed by International Air Transport Association (IATA). Coronavirus, airlines say, is a force majeure event that has led to a situation where there is demand mainly for refunds and virtually no new bookings, leading to a cash flow crisis.

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