Indian Government States Airlines Must Refund Lockdown Tickets

The Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has announced today that all airlines must provide cash refunds to passengers who booked tickets for the second phase of the country’s lockdown. Anyone who purchased tickets for flights operating between the 15th of April and the 3rd of May will be reimbursed. Initially, the country was due to leave lockdown this week, but this has been extended until May.

Air India Narrowbody
Many airlines are resistant to providing cash refunds, but the government has given them no choice.  Photo: Getty Images

Lockdown refunds

The Indian government has told airlines that giving customers credits for canceled flights is not good enough. Airlines have been trying to conserve cash by not providing proper refunds to customers who have had flights canceled due to travel restrictions. India has extended its national lockdown until at least the 3rd of May.

In a memorandum, the MoCA said that any passenger who booked a ticket after the start of the lockdown on the 25th of March for a flight during the new lockdown extension, meaning before the 3rd of May, should be refunded in full. The memorandum also stated that any cancellation fees do not apply.

However, if a passenger booked the flight before the start of the lockdown, then they do not count for these new regulations. In these cases, airlines can offer to change the flight and can charge cancellation fees. This means two people on the same flight before the 3rd of May will be treated differently depending on when they booked.

Air India Wuhan Evacuation Flight
Some Indian Airlines have continued to sell tickets during the lockdown. However, only evacuation flights were allowed to operate. Photo: Getty Images

Some airlines have been offering tickets for flights that were due to operate during the nation’s initial lockdown. Despite the government’s insistence that all flights before the 15th of April were canceled, some airlines still sold tickets and are now being forced to refund travelers. These passengers will also be able to get a full refund.

More refunds

Despite being forced to provide full refunds to passengers for April flights, some Indian airlines have already started selling tickets for flights in May. This means if the Indian Government is forced to extend the lockdown until again, this whole situation will happen again in May.

Many people across India are keen to travel as soon as possible, which is why so many booked flights for the end of April. This lockdown extension is costing airlines who cannot now offer passengers credit for future flights. IndiGo has reportedly started to schedule some flights for the 4th of May, just one day after the new lockdown end date. As of the 14th of April, train companies in India are no longer accepting bookings.

IndiGo Airbus order
IndiGo is already scheduling flights from the 4th of May, one day after the lockdown is due to lift. Photo: Airbus

Other countries

India is not the only country to issue a statement forcing airlines to refund passengers. America recently made a similar statement, as did the European Union. Initially, airlines around the world focussed on rebooking passengers on later flights and offering credit options for future travel. However, as the global pandemic continues, airlines are now being forced to provide cash refunds.

While this is good news for passengers who no longer need or want to travel, it isn’t that good the airlines. Many airlines don’t keep large amounts of cash and rely on advance bookings for the money they use to pay staff and operate day-to-day. With no bookings bringing in money and lots of passengers and staff to pay, airlines are desperate to keep their cash.

What do you think of governments asking airlines to pay passengers back in cash? Would you be happy to accept credit if the airline was struggling for money? Let us know in the comments?