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Travel portals, airlines are grappling with cancellations

By Aneesh Phadnis & Neha Alawadhi
March 18, 2020 13:33 IST
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The issues include not getting refunds on airline and hotel bookings, getting charged a service fee even if airlines have waived cancellation charges and so on.

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Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

“It’s been more than a day since I tried calling, emails, tweets and DMs but the people at @makemytrip are taking everyone for a ride.

"At a time when everyone wants to be safe but @makemytrip is making sure the safety comes at a ‘price’ by refusing refunds and rescheduling. #Pathetic,” groused a Twitter user on Tuesday.

 

Another user who had to cancel a trip because of the ongoing travel restrictions between India and the US told Yatra.com: “How dare u charge me cancelations for something beyond my control... either refund me my money or reschedule my flight.”

These and many more complaints are piling up on Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels as more and more people cancel their travel plans due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Online travel agencies and airlines are grappling with a deluge in requests.

“Our support teams are working 24x7 and are constantly monitoring updates from the government and public health authorities to be able to serve you in the best way possible.

"We are closely working with all our airline and hotel partners on lenient customer policies for date change, cancellations and waivers in the face of evolving travel trends and are seamlessly passing the waiver benefits to our customers, as applicable,” said MakeMyTrip group chairman Deep Kalra and CEO Rajesh Magow in a letter to customers on Tuesday.

However, several raised complaints about technical glitches, non-processing of refunds and being unable to reach online platforms to cancel their bookings as India and other countries close their borders every other day.

The issues include not getting refunds on airline and hotel bookings, getting charged a service fee even if airlines have waived cancellation charges and so on.

“On priority, we are resolving requests/issues of customers who are scheduled to travel within 24 to 48 hours, and are initiating refund as per the airline(s) fare rules and cancellation policy.

"We have also launched a Trip Protection Plan where customers can avail of a refund if they want to cancel travel plans.

"If our travellers want to cancel or delay their reservations, we at Yatra.com are advising and helping customers to postpone and book for alternate dates,” said a Yatra.com spokesperson.

The situation keeps changing, with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation ordering suspension on Monday of all passenger traffic from Europe till March 31.

Several European countries - Italy, Spain, France - have announced country-wide lockdowns.

The European Union is said to be considering a ban on all non-essential travel across the Schengen free travel zone.

America, Canada and Britain have imposed similar bans.

This has led to a scramble for cancellations from people planning vacations, students in these countries or those on business trips.

In addition to its 24-hour helpline, MakeMyTrip has also asked customers to use three other channels to get in touch for processing of cancellations - sending a support request through a form provided in the app and on the website, the self-serve option available online on the MakeMyTrip app and website, and the detailed self-help page that provides all the updates on airline policies on refunds, cancellations and amendments for domestic and international flights.

IndiGo airlines said it was facing a 500 per cent increase in queries through calls and e-mails as customers scramble to cancel bookings. In addition to the company website for the latest updates, it is asking customers to consider delaying their request if their flight is over two weeks away, so that those who have an earlier booking date can be served first.

If absolutely necessary to speak to IndiGo with a flight within two weeks, customers can call on 99103-83838 or e-mail at customer.relations@goindigo.in.

“In common with other LCC (low cost carrier) practice, for domestic flights which we expect to operate, we are allowing free changes for all.

"Total refunds are being given only for special cases. We continue to review our policies on a daily basis,” an IndiGo spokesperson said on Tuesday.

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Aneesh Phadnis & Neha Alawadhi in New Delhi
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