The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday asked international airlines to consider waiving cancellation fees to provide relief to passengers whose travel plans are disrupted due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The aviation regulator issued the advisory as customers have been forced to cancel travel on government orders but are unable to claim a full refund from airlines because of fare rules. Globally, airlines are offering customers free change in date or destination but refund is being paid based on fare rules. Airlines deduct a cancellation fee based on the fare type and this has led to mass complaints against the carriers on social media.
"Flights are being curtailed, cancelled and disrupted almost on a daily basis. Resultantly, passengers are also facing the brunt. In the current scenario, it would be appropriate if airlines support their passengers in this tough time by waiving off cancellation/reschedule charges or by providing any other incentive. In light of hardship faced by passengers, airlines may like to consider and take an appropriate call, accordingly," Deputy Director-General Sunil Kumar said in a circular to all foreign airlines operating to India. Indian airlines have been advised separately to give relief to passengers, an official said.
Lufthansa and Swiss which have suspended their flights to India from March 14-16 have extended their waiver policy. The airlines said customers can now also keep their ticket valid without a new flight reservation and use it at a later time; new travel may be completed as late as December 31.
Singapore based low-cost airline Scoot is offering refunds in the form of a travel voucher that customers can redeem for a future trip. "The voucher is valid for twelve months after issuance. The new booking against which the voucher is to be redeemed must be within the validity period. However the travel period can be after that," the airline said.
Etihad Airways will not charge for the date change and fare differential in case of rescheduling caused due to a government travel advisory. The Abu Dhabi based airline is offering a refund to passengers who can not travel due to entry or exit bans imposed by governments. Malaysian Airlines has expanded its free date change and destination change policies to cover bookings to all destinations. Earlier the airline was offering these benefits for bookings to countries most affected by Coronavirus.