The mailer outlines a plan to address flight ticket cancellations and refunds arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone’s lives in unprecedented ways. Flights remained in their hangars, train engines ran cold and cars and buses stayed firmly in their parking lots. In January and February 2020, life was going on as usual. The first few weeks of March saw slight unrest when news about a new disease – the coronavirus started reaching Indian shores.
On 24 March 2020, the Government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting movement of its entire population, comprised of nearly 1.38 billion people. Many Indians do not work or stay in their home towns so this gave rise to logistical issues – when people stuck in other states had to find their way back home.
People who had booked tickets in advance, when life was normal in the first two months of 2020 – were severely impacted too. All of a sudden, online travel aggregators (OTAs) were facing an influx of requests for refunds or cancellations – after all, nobody could even travel beyond the gates of their houses for any reason.
In October 2020, the Supreme Court of India had to intervene. The apex court ordered the airlines to provide refunds to passengers who had booked flight tickets during the two-month long nationwide lockdown. According to a report by LiveMint, a Bench comprised of three judges said that in the case of cancellation of travel booking during the lockdown period, airlines must provide a refund within 15 days of the order.
A mailer from the MakeMyTrip CEO addresses this aspect of the pandemic that many OTAs are struggling with. The letter mentions that the domino effect of flight cancellations led to a massive pile up of refund requests, and needed 'extraordinary' effort to solve for flight plan changes, credit shells, refunds and more.
"While servicing these requests, we have disbursed over 642 crores in refunds since last year. For the remaining 0.4% cases, we continue to follow up robustly with our partner airlines on your behalf," informs the mailer.
While one segment of the population is attempting to get a refund of their hard-earned money, another part is all raring to go on their next vacation. Multiple OTAs are now advertising for sales on their YouTube channels. This includes the likes of Goibibo, Ixigo, and yes, MakeMyTrip.
So far, India has been hit with two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. The third wave seems imminent, and people appear to be eager to travel before more lockdown restrictions are put in place. This phenomenon is called 'revenge tourism'. After being in lockdown for months altogether, people faced with a sense of monotony are itching to travel and get a change of scenery.
Most people who are vaccinated are asked to provide their vaccine certificates in order to book tickets or make reservations at hotels. Given the ongoing pandemic, people are finding ways around travel restrictions. Some choose road trips to deserted hill stations, others choose work-cations, where a person works remotely from a different, scenic location, etc.
Read the full letter from the MakeMyTrip CEO about cancellation and refunds below.
Dear fellow traveller,
We hope this note finds you and your loved ones in good health.We are grateful for the trust you have placed in us and we are honoured to serve you as your travel partner of choice. In the spirit of transparency in service, we are writing to update you on the progress we have made in resolving for flight ticket cancellations and refunds arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent service disruption.
As you know, COVID-19 caused disruption to the travel industry at a scale and size never experienced before. More than a year and a half into the pandemic, we continue to evolve ways in which our business can serve our customers better including resolving any outstanding issues.
One of the most pressing service needs has been around refunds because of the massive flight disruptions that has even taken a toll on several airlines around the world. The domino effect of flight cancellations leading to a massive pile up of refund requests, needed an extraordinary effort to solve for flight plan changes, credit shells, refunds and more.
We are humbled to share that through the efforts made by our team over the last several months, almost 99.6 per cent impacted bookings during the lockdown period stand resolved today. While servicing these requests, we have disbursed over 642 crores in refunds since last year. For the remaining 0.4% cases, we continue to follow up robustly with our partner airlines on your behalf.
Following the Supreme Court’s direction to airlines to refund fares booked for travel until 24 May 2020, we have seamlessly passed on the refund received from airlines in entirety to our customers. In the rare case that you had a flight booking for this period where the refund has not been received for any reason or you haven’t yet filed a refund request, we urge you to do the same here.
In the event your travel was booked with an airline that has filed for bankruptcy proceedings, the refund will only get processed as per the bankruptcy process laid out by law in that respective geography. Certain airlines under financial distress are still to process refunds for bookings which do not fall under the period covered by the Apex Court’s order and we assure you that we will keep you informed on progress in such cases.While we deeply regret any delays in refunds that may have occurred for reasons beyond our control, we would like to thank you once again for your patronage and patience during this challenging period.We look forward to seeing you travel with us soon again.
(Hero image courtesy Eva Darron on Unsplash)