In a big relief to thousands of air passengers, the Supreme Court on Thursday approved the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) proposal on air tickets refund and credit shell on flights booked prior and during lockdown.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said the court cannot lose sight of the present situation prevailing in the country and across the globe in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, and it cannot be disputed that the civil aviation sector, which is one of the important sectors, is seriously affected in view of the ban imposed for operating flights.

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As per the court's ruling, any passenger that has booked a ticket during the lockdown period (from March 25 to May 24) for travel during lockdown period can avail refund from airlines.

If the airline has received payment for booking of air ticket for travel during the same period, for both domestic and international air travel and the refund is sought by the passenger against that booking being cancelled, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without any cancellation charges.

The refund shall be made within a period of three weeks from the date of cancellation.

In case the bookings were made through a travel agent for travel within the lockdown period, full refund shall be given by the airlines immediately.

In any case, the airline is unable to provide refund, they must provide credit shell equivalent to the amount of fare collected. This credit shell shall remain valid till March 31, 2021. This is in view of the current situation of the airlines, which is slowly picking pace, but still not operational in full capacity. 

The credit shell issued in the name of the passenger shall be transferable which can be utilized up to March 31, 2021.

"Passengers who booked tickets at any period of time but for travel after 24th May, 2020 - refund of fares to the passengers covered under this category shall be governed by the provisions of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR)," said the top court.