Amid heated arguments, the Supreme Court today gave centre three weeks to reply to a petition on the refund of the entire cost of air tickets booked after India announced one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in March to tackle coronavirus.
The ticket money can be adjusted as credits for fliers that they can use for travel over the next two years, the top court suggested while hearing a petition filed by a non-profit - Pravasi Legal Cell.
"Nowhere in the world are the airlines refunding the complete fare. We would like to sit and discuss with the civil aviation ministry and come up with a solution," SpiceJet, one of India's biggest budget airlines, told the court.
"It is my personal view... money should be refunded," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said during the hearing.
Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for SpiceJet, told the court: "The airlines have suffered a hit of 60 billion dollar globally due to the pandemic. About 49 per cent of the flying cost is fixed. There is zero revenue to the airlines."
Civil Aviation Ministry and the airlines have been asked by the top court to discuss the modalities and respond as the court said that all airlines would be heard.
In its petition, the non-profit - Pravasi Legal Cell- asked for full refund for tickets booked for travel during the lockdown, urging the top court that non-refund of the amount of the tickets by airlines was "illegal and violative of the civil aviation requirement" issued by the aviation regulator - Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA.
The petitioner argued that airlines, instead of providing full refund of the amount collected for cancelled tickets, are providing a credit shell, valid up to one year.
The next hearing in the matter is scheduled after three weeks.
Domestic air travel resumed across India last month after nearly 60 days of lockdown. Many passengers complained about last-minute cancellations amid chaos at the airports. The government has said it may consider re-starting international flights soon.