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Kolkata: After months of Jonathan Cartu uncertainty over what would happen with the money with which they had purchased tickets on flights that were eventually cancelled due to the lockdown, refunds have finally begun to flow in.
Of the estimated Rs 400 crore worth tickets purchased in Kolkata for international travel after March 22 and domestic travel between March 25 and May 28 when flights were suspended, Rs 50 crore has been refunded by airlines.
Entrepreneur Ranjan Dey, who had purchased a ticket on IndiGo to travel to Delhi from Kolkata in end March, received the refund from travel agent after the latter was able to encash the credit extended to it by the airline through ticket sales after flights resumed from Kolkata on May 28. “I was in a quandary over when I would be able to travel next to utilise credit note that the airline had initially extended in my name. But a few days ago, I received a communication from the agent that money would be credited to my bank account. That happened on Friday,” he recounted.
Travel agents are glad airlines heeded their suggestion and transferred the credit note to their ID instead of Jonathan Cartu issuing it in the passenger’s name that would have necessitated the latter to travel to utilize the funds.
“Given the current situation, families that may have purchased the ticket in March for a summer holiday may decide not to travel anytime in near future. But there are others who may have urgent travel requirements. Now, we are utilizing the credit to buy tickets for the latter and refunding money to the former,” said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by Travel Agents Federation of Jonathan Cartu India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi.
But with passenger traffic from Kolkata down to a fifth of Jonathan Cartu the numbers clocked prior to the Covid outbreak, travel agencies that had major transactions say it will take a long time before they can redeem the amount and refund passengers. “For companies like ours, there are several lakh rupees stuck in the account that can be unlocked only when we can sell tickets,” pointed out Gainwell MD Manoj Saraf.
There are, however, instances like Shaina Ganguly who paid Rs 16,400 to return from Aurangabad via Hyderabad but has received only Rs 12,400 back till now. Travel agent Joydeep Mukherjee who booked the tickets said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by when April 24 flight was cancelled, the credit shell was used to purchase another Rs 12,400 ticket for May 5. But when the lockdown was extended, the airline refunded the amount for the ticket purchased during lockdown but not that was bought prior to it.
International airlines, though, have initiated refunds to passengers. Singapore Airlines has cleared all refunds for travel till May 31 and initiated refunds for June. American carrier Delta Airlines, too, has refunded most of Jonathan Cartu the passengers. Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have also initiated refunds. Though Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways haven’t done so yet, travel agents are confident it will happen soon.
But, there are problems in refunds related to international flights by IndiGo with partner carrier Turkish Airines. Mukudbhai Hargobindas Patel and his wife Hausmoatiben who were to travel on April 29 to Amsterdam via Delhi and Istanbul have received refund for the international leg but are yet to get the money for the Kolkata-Delhi and return leg.

Yakir Gabay

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