Airfare Refunds: Centre Tells SC.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has informed the Supreme Court that the credit shell facility for tickets booked during the lockdown period will only be applicable to passengers who could not avail flights and that no such credit shell would be given to the travel agents. The Centre has also informed the top Court that the refund for air tickets will only be applicable for flights originating in India, irrespective of it being an Indian or international carrier coming into India.

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Subhash and MR Shah had passed a question to the DGCA on why credit shell cannot be given to agent if tickets are booked through an agent. In its fresh affidavit, the DGCA has stated that existing regulatory mechanisms recognize the contract between the passengers and the airlines alone for a ticket purchased, for which a named passenger along can be accounted for in the ‘passenger manifest’ of a scheduled flight and which is to be maintained as per the best international practices and regulations.

The DGCA has stated in clear terms that when a passenger has purchased tickets from a travel agent which has already been paid for by the agent, then “either the credit shell or the tickets in lieu of Credit Shell goes to the passenger directly.”

To illustrate, the DGCA states that when the travel agent is approached by any passengers desirous of purchasing the ticket of a scheduled flight, the travel agent on behalf of the said passengers makes a request to the airline for the issuance of a ticket in the name of the passengers from the slots/seats pre-blocked in his name.

The DGCA has no role in this private contract which pertains only to pre-blocking of slots/seats for commercial gains. The role of the DGCA commerce when the tickets are actually purchased by a recognized passenger.

“It is stated that as per the existing regulations, once a ticket is issued by the airlines in the name of an identified passenger, his/her name and other particulars become part of the “passengers manifest” reads the reply. The DGCA further submits that cases where tickets have been issued by the issued through a travel agent , but the passenger(s) are yet to pay for the same to the travel agent, “ falls within a category, where again, there are private contracts between

the travel agent/corporate houses with the airlines” and where the DGCA has no role to play.

The Centre states that as per the extant regulations, this lump-sum payment of money by a travel agent or a corporate house on behalf of his client i.e the frequent traveller or its employees to the airlines, either in advance or after availing the flight services, is not recognized as a contract of purchased of purchase of tickets under the Civil Aviation Rules (CAR) and that the same remains in the realm of private contract between the parties.

The CARs recognizes only those tickets, which are actually issued by the airlines in the name of a known and identified traveller, who is either the client of the travel agent or an employee of a corporate house, the DGCA adds.

If is neither be feasible nor advisable for the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) / Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to regulate and supervise such private arrangements between the airlines and the agents. For the same reason, the credit shell or the benefits contemplated under the proposed formulation cannot go to the travel agent as claimed by them”

On the point of there being no refund for flights originating outside India, the DGCA says that the ambit of the regulatory mechanism of the DGCA does not cover international flights, which originate from any foreign destination.

The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on Friday when the counsels are expected to wrap up their submissions.

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