Airlines all over the world have taken a hit post the Corona virus outbreak. Countries have sealed their international borders and now the International Air Transport Association has pegged the global loss of revenue to a maximum of $113 billion. But little did one expect some airlines to still use loopholes or excuses to find a way to avoid refunding passengers.
Take the case of InterGlobe Aviation or IndiGo Airlines as India’s largest low-cost carrier is popularly known, that appeared to make the right moves on the surface, but still tried to dodge the bullet when it came to paying back passengers. The airline has sent out emails regarding easy flight rescheduling and cancellation at this trying time. In a promotional letter to its customers, it said that that it has now asked its customer relations officers to work six days a week, instead of five, and has also asked airport staff in other departments to man customer relations due to the surge in incoming emails and calls. The carrier has also said that it will not charge any fee for rescheduling domestic and international flights booked for March 12 till March 31.
However, despite the advisory issued by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asking airlines to waive off cancellation / rescheduling charges; IndiGo chose not to waive off the ticket cancellation charges, thereby charging flyers exorbitant amounts for the same. Tweeting from its official handle, the airline said, “We understand that you are worried about travelling due to the coronavirus outbreak, which is why we’re offering free change for the travel booked from 12 to 31st Mar’20, provided that the booking is rescheduled at least 72 hrs before flight departure.” It added, “Please know, if you wish to cancel, applicable charges will be levied. You may visit http://goindigo.in for more details. Hope for your understanding.”
The tweets may be viewed here:
We understand that you are worried about travelling due to the coronavirus outbreak, which is why we’re offering free change for the travel booked from 12 to 31st Mar’20, provided that the booking is rescheduled at least 72 hrs before flight departure. 1/2
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) March 12, 2020
Please know, if you wish to cancel, applicable charges will be levied. You may visit https://t.co/7UGOtouYYS for more details. Hope for your understanding. ~Prabh 2/2
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) March 12, 2020
This 72 hour rider appears to be the airlines way of ensuring that the ticket is only rescheduled, thus allowing the airline to hold on to the ticket price. Cancellation charges increase as one gets closer to the date of departure, especially during the last 3 days when they can go up too the entire price of the ticket! The airline’s refusal to grant full refunds is thus attracting severe flak from customers who took to Twitter to express their woes after the airlines did not offer full refunds for cancellations.
A customer alleged –
Most unhelpful, rude staff who even mock customers! Cheats! What is the refund you gave me on cancellation? 5% of my ticket value!!!! Unjustified!!!
Just say in public that you want only money and don’t really care? And you masquerade as people helping travellers at this time?
— ASHOK GOPALAN (@ashokin65) March 18, 2020
However, this seems to be the case with all airlines.
@makemytrip today my flight from Kolkata to New Delhi via Vistara flight UK 720 got cancelled by airlines itself stating operational reason. I got a call from them saying I am eligible for full refund. But i can see there has been a huge cancellation fee applied? May i know why?
— SAYAN CHATTERJEE (@sayan_infy) March 17, 2020
@DGCAIndia can someone please intervene?I have booked on vistara and there is no information on how to go about rescheduling or cancelling the flight.While every other airline is accomodative due to the current virus outbreak,@airvistara seems tobe acting otherwise
— Sush (@SushBala) March 17, 2020
@flyspicejet @IRCTCofficial @PiyushGoyal @HardeepSPuri
Why airlines and Railways are not ready to support customers in waiving off the cancellation charges?? In spite of DGCA informing to waive off cancellation charges, SpiceJet resisted to do so
Another chance to reconsider…
— Ajay Ananthan lakha (@pananth4) March 18, 2020
Goair, how can you still charge cancellation charges for my Maldives flight scheduled from 6-11 April when you have cancelled all the international flights between 17th March to 18th April. @goairlinesindia @goibibo
— Shubham Gangwal (@shubham_bhavatu) March 18, 2020
Also, other airlines like SpiceJet and GoAir are also facing flak for their unwillingness to provide full refunds for cancellations.
About cancellations, Spicejet clarified in an official tweet –
Please note the fare difference shall be applicable as per the current fare. Also, a cancellation fee shall be charged upon cancelling the booking.
— SpiceJet (@flyspicejet) March 16, 2020
Go Air too issued a statement saying that their earlier offer of free cancellation was not available any longer.
— GoAir (@goairlinesindia) March 11, 2020
Meanwhile, Air Vistara has waived cancellation charges for domestic and international flights booked on or before March 1, 2020. It has also waived cancellation fees on cancellation flight tickets booked on or before March 12, 2020, reported CNBC TV18. However, any fare difference will be applicable to such changes the airlines added.
But Go Air’s policies are also hurting their own staff. The airline has asked some of its employees to go on leave without pay. The Economic Times reported the airlines as saying that it has, “initiated a short term and temporary rotational leave without pay program that will not only help the company counter the short term reduction in capacity, but will also ensure that a cross section of our employees stay away from the workplace to ensure business continuity.”
At present, Afghanistan, Phillipines and Malaysia have been added to the list of countries from where nobody, including Indian nationals, can fly directly to India. This after the same advisory was issued yesterday for those who were travelling from the European Union (EU), European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Mumbai based aviation analyst told Quartz India, “The travel advisory will certainly put the flyers into panic mode. Many of them are avoiding flying to domestic destinations too. Furthermore, SpiceJet and IndiGo have inducted new planes in their fleet and with business going down, managing rising costs will be difficult for them, leading to a massive drop in their quarterly earnings.”
The current number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India has jumped to 148. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) also reported that it had not discovered any evidence of community transmission of the corona virus in India after all the 500 random samples had tested negative for the ailment.