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India Tour Operators ask Jet Airways: Where’s our refund?

India tour operators set up task force to deal with COVID-19
image courtesy of Indian Association of Tour Operators

President of the India Association of Tour Operators (IATO) Mr. Rajiv Mehra has requested the government to help in getting a refund for travel agents from Jet Airways. Additionally, IATO is asking that the government remove hurdles that are creating hinderances in reviving inbound tourism.

In a letter, IATO pointed out the issue of pending refunds of travel agents from Jet Airways which has been dragging on for over 2 years. While welcoming the resumption of Jet Airways flight operation in the next quarter of this year (July-September 2022) for which DGCA – Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the statutory body of the Government of India that regulates civil aviation in the country – has granted Jet Airways its air operator’s certificate (AOC). This officially paves the way for the grounded airline to take to the skies once again, and Mr. Mehra has written to the DGCA stating that large amounts of funds have been stored with Jet Airways that should have been refunded to ticketing agents despite repeated reminders to Jet Airways about the refunds.

Also, advance deposits towards group bookings made by travel agents for the ticketing of groups still remain within the financial coffers of Jet Airways. IATO has requested that:

Operation of Jet Airways flights should be kept in abeyance until these long overdue refunds are made to the travel agents.

The letter states that It should be made compulsory for all the airlines operating in India to provide a bank guarantee or financial security to be kept with DGCA or an appropriate statutory body to protect the interest of travel agents, tour operators, and airline travelers in such a situation when an airline goes bankrupt or ceases to operate like in the case of Jet Airways, Kingfisher, and several other airlines in the past.

In his communication to the Ministry of Tourism, Mr. Mehra requested the Hon. Tourism Minister to impress upon the government to withdraw the requirement of the submission of a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvida portal for foreign nationals. Presently, all foreign tourists who intend to visit India, need to submit a self-declaration form and attach documents which foreign tourists, especially the elderly person, find very difficult. For this reason, many foreign tourists reported to have been offloaded which is giving negative publicity and now many tourists are skipping travel to India altogether.

Explained Mr. Mehra, on the one hand we are looking to bring more foreign tourists to India, while on the other hand, we are making it difficult for tourists to consider India as a destination by creating hinderances. Under the present situation, many countries have abolished all hurdles to attract more tourists. The IATO President says it is high time that with the situation being much better, the government should consider removing such hurdles for foreigners. IATO has, therefore, requested that the requirement of the submission of a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvida portal be removed to encourage foreign travelers to visit so that inbound tourism to India could be revived.

In a letter to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Mr. Mehra, also brought to light the fact that foreign travelers are facing challenges while traveling in India due to a compulsory web check-in being forced by all domestic airlines. In his letter to the MoCA, Mr. Mehra mentioned that the basic purpose of the web check-in is to avoid a rush at the baggage counters, but the very purpose of the same has been defeated as ALL travelers have to stand in queue for handing over checked-in baggage, because there are no separate queues or counters for those who have already done the web check-in. On top of that, airlines are charging Rs. 200 per traveler who have not done the web check-in. 

IATO has requested that directives should be issued to all domestic airlines to not to make it compulsory for travelers to do a web check-in, and the facility of issuing a boarding pass should be available from the airline check-in counters at the airport for those who have not done a web check-in. It is the responsibility of the airline to issue a boarding pass and baggage tag to air travelers, so there should not be any additional charges for a boarding pass.    

Earlier, IATO also requested the government to start: tourism marketing and promotions; participation in major international travel marts, fairs and road shows; overseas marketing and promotions through electronic and print media; reduction in airfares by reducing taxes on ATF by the center and the state governments; restoration of the e-Tourist Visa for international travelers from countries such as the UK, Canada, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, etc.; and the validity of a 5 lakh free tourist visa to be extended until March 2024.

Mr. Mehra is hopeful that the association’s requests will be favorably considered by the government. 

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Anil Mathur - eTN India

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