New Delhi: Only 12-13 per cent of people who cancelled travel bookings due to the second Covid-19 wave got timely refunds, a new survey has found. According to the survey by LocalCircles, a community social media platform, 90 per cent of the respondents say they want the government to come up with a travel cancellation refund policy for as long as the pandemic continues.
The sudden rise in Covid cases ahead of the second wave, which peaked in April and May this year, forced many to cancel their tickets and hotel stays. While some were able to recover a partial amount, others were asked to rebook flights and hotel stays for a later date as some travel agents (online and offline), airlines as well as hotels did not initiate a refund.
This led to the Ministry of Civil Aviation holding meetings in April with representatives of airlines, following which some airlines waived off change fees on domestic flights, while some provided free cancellation and rescheduling of flights.
The survey, published Monday, received over 37,000 responses from people located across 359 districts of India. Of them, 64 per cent of respondents were men while 36 per cent were women. Around 47 per cent of respondents were from tier 1 cities, 30 per cent from tier 2 and 23 per cent from tier 3 and 4 cities and rural districts.
Only 12% received full refund from airlines
Of the 8,713 respondents who spoke about the challenges they faced to claim refunds on their summer bookings, only 12 per cent said “travel agent/airline accepted cancellation and refunded full amount”. Another 12 per cent said “travel agent/airline accepted cancellation but refunded partial amount”, while 32 per cent respondents said “travel agent/airline did not refund anything, and we lost the ticket amount”.
Four per cent said “travel agent/airline accepted cancellation and refunded a small amount”, but 24 per cent said “travel agent/airline did not refund anything but rebooked the ticket for a later date.” Sixteen per cent of the respondents did not have an opinion.
The survey noted that while some airlines claimed to have waived change fees on domestic flights, a few said they had provided free cancellation while policies of two of others were unclear to consumers.
Only 13% got full refund from hotels
On the question of how the cancellation and refund experience for hotel stays had been, only 13 per cent of respondents said “travel agent/hotel accepted cancellation and refunded full amount”.
Forty four per cent said they lost the entire booking amount, 17 per cent said they received a partial refund, around 13 per cent did not get a refund but rebooked their stay for a later date, while another 13 per cent couldn’t say.
This question in the survey received 8,594 responses.
90% want govt policy on refunds
Another question in the survey asked citizens if the government should come up with a special policy that applies to airlines, railways, hotels, and others during the Covid-19 pandemic that enables fair and faster refunds in cases of lockdowns.
As much as 90 per cent of the respondents replied in the affirmative, while only three per cent said ‘no’. Seven per cent said they did not have an opinion. This question in the survey received 10,633 responses.
The survey also noted that citizens suggested that a policy could be brought by respective ministries under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Only 5% approve of existing refund policies
When asked what would constitute a fair and fast refund in case of a cancellation due to Covid-19, three per cent of the respondents said there should be an “immediate refund with up to 50% value deducted as processing charges”.
Twenty one per cent said there should be “refund within a week with up to 20% value deducted as processing charges”, and 30 per cent said “refund within a month and up to 10% value deducted as processing charges”.
Six per cent wanted a “refund within 6 months and up to 5% value deducted as processing charges”, while 21 per cent of citizens said there should be “no refund but a voucher for the full amount to be used towards future travel within 2 years”. Eight per cent voted for “other model”, and 7 per cent did not have an opinion.
The survey noted that only five per cent of citizens approve of the existing travel booking (flight, train, hotel, etc) refund policies during the pandemic while the majority wants changes.
This question in the survey received 9,662 responses.
Taking note of the survey results, LocalCircles listed three best-case scenarios that could give people confidence that their losses will be limited in case they faced a situation where plans had to be cancelled due to the pandemic: First, a refund within a week and 20 per cent of the amount deducted as processing charges. Second, a refund within a month and 10 per cent of the amount deducted as processing charges. Or third, no refund but a voucher for the full amount issued, valid for up to two years.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)