Since the time Kingfisher cancelled or were forced to cancel their operations, refund complaints are piling up for the flights cancelled by Kingfisher. Naturally, passengers would approach the travel portals for refund where the tickets have been booked through them. However, portals are refusing to refund the money on the ground that they have not received the same from Kingfisher.
India Consumer Forum keeps receiving such complaints and the Forum is doing the best to get the refund from the travel portals.
We understand Yatra.com have made a conscious decision to effect refund for the cancelled flights (as part of their commitment to “Creating Happy Travellers”) and we have been successful with Yatra.com in obtain such refunds. However, Makemytrip continues to deny such refunds. When ICF took up a refund case with Makemytrip, they refused refund on the following ground:
Quote:At the outset, wish to inform you that we are facilitators who act as agent between the customers and airlines to enable a customer purchase certain products and services from third parties (airlines, hotels etc.). These services are not only governed by our user terms at www.makemytrip.com (user terms) but in additions such third party terms also applies. To further clarify once the customer purchases a particular airline ticket or other services of a third party a privacy of contract is established between such Airlines or service provider and the customer. Relevant extract of our user terms: “In addition to this Agreement, there are certain terms of service (TOS) specific to the services rendered/ products provided by MMT like the air tickets, MICE, bus, rail, holiday packages etc. Such TOS will be provided/ updated by MMT which shall be deemed to be a part of this Agreement and in the event of a conflict between such TOS and this Agreement, the terms of this Agreement shall prevail. The User shall be required to read and accept the relevant TOS for the service/ product availed by the User.” We wish to inform you that in the specific case of “Refund of Kingfisher Airlines – booking amount” subject matter under response, please note that while a customer makes a particular booking with us, our user terms conspicuously and clearly informs the customers that any refunds are subject to we receiving the same from the airlines in question (in this case Kingfisher). We are reproducing some extracts from our user terms for your ready reference, however would request you to read though the terms for details thereof. The user agrees that there can be exceptional circumstances where the service operators like the airlines, hotels, the respective transportation providers or concerns may be unable to honor the confirmed bookings due to various reasons like climatic conditions, labor unrest, insolvency, business exigencies, government decisions, operational and technical issues, route and flight cancellations etc. If MMT is informed in advance of such situations where dishonor of bookings may happen, it will make its best efforts to provide similar alternative to its customers or refund the booking amount after reasonable service charges, if supported and refunded by that respective service operators. The user agrees that MMT being an agent for facilitating the booking services shall not be responsible for any such circumstances and the customers have to contact that service provider directly for any further resolutions and refunds.
Is there a legal remedy:
We have not come across any complaint filed againt a travel portal or Kingfisher for the subject refunds. However, from the reading of case laws pertaining to refund complaints and contract terms, it appears that the following aspects should be considered to arrive at a conclusion as to whether travel portals are liable to pay these refunds
1. Makemytrip is relying on their Terms of Service that they say will bind the user every time their services are availed. In simple terms it means that Makemytrip will make refunds only and when they receive them from the airlines. It is well know that users will not go through the terms and conditions hidden behind a link. This is a very important condition for the user to consider and therefore should have been included in the cancellation rules. However, Makemytrip has not included this term in the cancellation rules printed on their tickets. Makemytrip’s FAQ on refund (as appearing on 22-02-2013) states as follows:
Question: By when can I expect my refund against the cancellation of my booking?
Answer: All refunds are processed by the method of payment used in the initial transaction, except in the case of cash payments where the refund is processed through cheque or online transfer.
The refund is initiaited from our end within 3 working days of receiving the cancellation request for requests placed online through our Customer Support section, and within 5 working days for requests placed on the phone. An e-mail confirmation of the refund amount will be sent to the email address given to us at the time of booking.
Please note that it may take 3 – 14 days for the money to reflect in your account, depending on your bank, after the refund is initated from our end.
As can be seen, there is no mention of refund only if they are refunded by the airlines.
Moreover, if this is a pre-condition for acceptance of flight bookings by MMT then MMT are bound to disclose this condition to the users and failing to do this would amount to unfair trade practice.
2. It also needs to be seen the relationship between MMT and Kingfisher under the governing contract between them. If MMT says that it will refund only when they receive refunds from Airlines, does it mean MMT is dealing with the Airlines on an individual ticket basis for settling their accounts or do they do it on a monthly basis. MMT is a very big established commercial firm and it issues eTickets on behalf of airlines and the said eTickets are valid for boarding the flights. We doubt MMT will be dealing with the airlines on an individual ticket basis. If we are correct then how come MMT releasing refunds for normal ticket cancellations before receiving funds from the airlines.
3. In one of the cases represented by us we had asked MMT to provide proof that Kingfisher had denied refund or any declaration made by Kingfisher that they will not refund. This MMT has not produced and had asked the customer to get the information through RTI(??). Therefore, MMT has not established with proof that they are not supported and not refunded by Kingfisher, and therefore MMT cannot refuse refund for the flights cancelled by Kingfisher.
Based on the above, we feel a customer can successfully fight a case against Makemytrip for defeciency in service and unfair trade practice.