The Centre on Thursday ordered airlines to fully refund passengers for the tickets booked during the lockdown period within three weeks and without any cancellation fee in case they ask for it.

Both domestic and international passengers, who booked tickets during the nationwide lockdown that was first imposed from March 25 to April 14 and later extended till May 3, will be eligible for the refund.

The Centre’s order came after several passengers complained that airlines were not providing refunds for cancelled flights in cash and were instead issuing credit for future travel.

“If a passenger has booked a ticket during the first lockdown period, and the airline has received the payment for booking of air ticket during first lockdown period for travel during the second lockdown period, for both domestic and international air travel, and the passenger seeks refund on cancellation of the ticket, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without levy of cancellation charges,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a circular.

India had banned all international flights from March 22. Domestic flights were stopped on March 25. With the extension of the lockdown till May 3, the ban on all public transport has also been extended. Domestic and international airlines have been severely hit by the enforcement of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines have been forced to cut salaries or send employees on unpaid leave to tide over the crisis.

On Thursday, The International Air Transport Association said that the coronavirus pandemic, which has grounded the aviation industry in India and its dependent sectors, could lead to a loss of over 20 lakh jobs. The IATA, which is a grouping of around 290 airlines, including Air India, Vistara, IndiGo and SpiceJet, said on Wednesday that globally, airlines now face an existential crisis.

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