Less than one-third of the people who cancelled their flights owing to the emergence of the Omicron variant-led third pandemic wave were able to receive refunds, according to an online survey. For those who were forced to cancel their hotel bookings on account of the same reason, 34 per cent of people could get the refunds, online community platform Localcircles said in the survey. The survey received more than 20,000 responses from citizens residing in 332 districts of India.
The rapid rise in the Omicron variant-led COVID cases in India have prompted many citizens — who had travel booked during January-March — to revisit their plans, and a subset of them have also approached airlines and hotels for cancellations. The first question in the survey on airlines asked citizens, “For the flight travel that you had booked for January-March 2022, how did the cancellation process work?” In response, 29 per cent said, “Travel agent and/or airline accepted cancellation and refunded full amount”, while 14 per cent said they received partial amount.
At the same time, 29 per cent of respondents said “travel agent and/or airline accepted cancellation and refunded a very small amount”. About 14 per cent of people surveyed said, “travel agent and/or airline did not refund anything but rebooked the ticket for a later date,” and 14 per cent couldn’t say anything, as per the survey. On an aggregate basis, of those who cancelled flight tickets due to the third COVID wave, only 29 per cent were able to get a full refund from airlines/travel agents, it added. In comparison to the second wave, over twice as many citizens were able to get a flight ticket refund due to third-wave related cancellation. However, the majority still ended up losing money to airlines, the survey said.
The survey found out that of those who cancelled hotel booking due to the third COVID wave, only 34 per cent were able to get a full refund from hotels/travel agents. On hotel bookings during January-March 2022, 34 per cent said “travel agent and/or hotel accepted cancellation and refunded full amount”, 13 per cent of respondents received a partial refund and 13 per cent got a very small amount.
Besides, 27 per cent of people surveyed said “travel agent and/or hotel did not refund anything, and…lost the entire booking amount”. When compared to the second wave, over 2.5 times as many citizens were able to get a hotel booking refund due to third-wave related cancellation. However, the majority still ended up losing money to hotels, the survey said. “Citizens on the LocalCircles platform have been suggesting that the Government should come up with a special policy for travel booking refunds till the COVID pandemic is going on, especially for airlines and hotels. “Due to lack of uniformity in cancellation charges by different airlines and hotel operators, the majority don’t approve of the existing travel booking refund policies during the pandemic,” said Sachin Taparia, founder, LocalCircles.