Consumers and service providers play an important role in every aspect of work life. It can also be seen in the railways and airlines where the commuters book their ticket either through their portal or a third-party book for them. While booking the tickets they are asked to pay the amount for service charges and the sales tax. The problem arises when the ticket is to be cancelled. Commuters get a refund on the cancellation of the ticket, deducting the amount of service charge levied on it. This is where commuters are deprived of their right to get a ticket full refund as they have not used their service.
Here, the question arises millions of people booked their ticket online and many of them either himself cancelled or the train or airline itself get cancelled in both cases commuters didn’t receive the full amount of refund. Is it right the amount deducted by these authorities as a convenience fee while cancelling a ticket? So, to know the policy and law behind it and the deduction by the airline and train authority are reasonable or not can be answered in this article. This article talks about the problems which the commuters are facing which are being neglected by everyone and also provide some suggestions on it.
Train and the airline are important speedy transport where we can reach our destination as fast as compared to other means of transportation. Commuters are the person who travelled through this means of transportation. So, commuters and these service providers are interlinked to each other. However, the most preferable means of transport for middle-class commuters are the train where they book their ticket either through the IRCTC portal or ticket counter. And in case we want to travel a long distance in a few hours, an airline is preferable. Commuters book their ticket mainly through a third-party website, where they have a different policy of refund.
However, millions of people booked their ticket through various platforms before two-three months and in the meantime on the day on which commuters want to travel receive a text message of the cancelled train and in case of an airline, they receive a day before or where the commuters himself wants to cancel the ticket before the cancellation policy, then also they didn’t receive a refund from these authorities.
Problems Faced By Passengers
Train Ticket Cancellation
- Railway Refund rules provide for a refund of the total amount in case the train gets delayed for more than three hours. However, for availing this facility the passenger who has booked an e-ticket shall file an online TDR whereas the passenger with counter ticket shall surrender the ticket at the journey commencing station before the actual departure of the train. The rule disregards certain unavoidable circumstances in which it is impossible for the passenger to timely file a TDR or surrender a ticket. Passengers already suffer so much due to late running trains which become two-fold if they are deprived of the refund amount because of railway authorities straightaway showing them the rule books.
- The continuing problem which has been evident from various cases filed before the adjudicating authorities are the deficiency of service on the part of the railway authorities in providing timely and correct information to the passengers about the cancellation of trains. It has been reported in numerous cases that the passenger has been misinformed or not informed about the train cancellation. According to the latest refund rules, if a train gets cancelled then a full refund of the ticket fare shall be made irrespective of confirmed, waitlisted, or RAC tickets. In case of e-tickets, the refund shall be automatically initiated online to the registered account used for booking and there lies no need to file TDR whereas in case of counter tickets the refund shall be collected from the PRS counters for which cancellation must be done within 72 hours after the departure of the train by the passenger.
But this is not the same done in real, the railways provide a refund after deducting the charges and sales tax for which the commuters had not availed for it.
- The amendment made to the Refund Rules 1998 in 2015 almost doubled the cancellation charges for both the reserved as well as non-reserved tickets. This was done to increase the amount of revenue earned on the tickets to meet its future goals. With the same intent, the ministry of railways on 31st December 2019 notified a marginal increase in train fares for all the classes except for sub-urban fare and season tickets. The increase in ticket fare may seem reasonable to many people but the increase in cancellation charges has attracted immense criticism especially from the commuters travelling in the sleeper and general classes.
The cancellation charges for commuters travelling in sleeper classes have been elevated from Rs.60 to Rs.120 and for those travelling in general class, the fare has been hiked from Rs. 30 to Rs.60. The amendment seems to be an unreasonable and narrow move as the government has ignored various other sources of revenue generation and has overburdened the passengers travelling in the lower class.
According to the recently revised base fare table of 2020-21, the ticket cost in general class ranges from Rs.30 to Rs.100 for the distance ranging between 1 to 300 kilometres. Similarly, the ticket cost for the sleeper class ranges from Rs.40 to Rs.180 for the same distance range. So, for example, a person travelling up-to 200 kilometres in sleeper class books a ticket of Rs.120, and due to some reason, he was not able to take the journey. Now if he wants to cancel the ticket and get a refund, he will get nothing as the cancellation charge is equal to the ticket amount. This is the same with the short distance commuters travelling in a general class where the cancellation charges are either more than the ticket amount or more than half of the ticket amount. In such a case the passenger will abstain from cancelling the ticket because discouraging cancellation charges and suffer unwarranted loss.
Secondly, most of the travellers in the lower classes belong to the low or middle-income group. If they had been wealthy enough, they would have booked the tickets in upper classes which are clean, safe, hygienic, and less crowded.
Airline Ticket Cancellation
- The common cost for a domestic flight ticket ranges from Rupees 4000 – 6000. The cancellation charges range between Rs.3000 – 3500 which is further increased if a person has used an agency for booking thus becoming more than half of the ticket price and hence ultimately causing loss to customers. The passengers are exploited unfairly with such exorbitant cancellation charges in addition to some non-refundable amounts like convenience fees and meal charges.
- Each airline has a separate set of cancellation policies which makes it puzzling for a common man to understand and act accordingly.
- Most airlines assure the customer to inform them through phone or e-mails in case of unforeseen delay or cancellation of flights but most of the time it is not the case and customers come to know when it is too late causing many problems.
- Most airlines offer to provide a full refund or alternative booking if the delay or preponement of the flight exceeds certain fixed hours but the reality seems to be different.
- The non-refundable meal charge on cancellation of flight ticket seems to be unreasonable and unfounded. If the cost of preparing the meal is not incurred if the passenger does not avail this service then charging him for it is arbitrary.
- The deduction of the promo code used or discount availed at the time of booking is also unreasonable as the customer does not force these online agencies to provide these coupons but these offers are provided as a part of their business strategy to attract more and more customers. Thus, it looks like a customer is unreasonably punished for withdrawing the services of the agency.
Refund on Cancelled Ticket in Pandemic Situation
Railway had issued an order for relaxing refund rules for the passengers who had booked their tickets in the lockdown. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country to avoid crowding on trains and encourage social distancing, the train is being cancelled and the passengers who have booked through online or offline mode will be provided with a full refund of the ticket.
But the situation is different, commuters are not provided with a full refund in return, they get the amount after deducting the convenience fee and the GST. And the law says that if we don’t use any service, for that service charge cannot be levied. Here, the same case lies where the commuters have not travelled through the train and have not used any service then why service charge and sales tax are levied? And in the million population, where commuters mainly of small distance traveller or low-income group have to deduct on the ticket, the service fee as the same as that of the ticket.
In the situation where people have to left their jobs are left with no money in this three-month lockdown. It has also been seen that economy had got down due to the closure of many factories. With the increase in the cases in the whole country, it is impossible to normalize the economy as day to day increase in cases would lead people not to get out of the home for the work. And the industries are facing problems because of no labour worker or any staff to handle. However, in this situation, they get a minimal amount of refund after deducting the service charges which equals half the ticket amount.
- It is recommended that any conditions levied for availing full refund amount due to cancellation or late running of trains shall be abolished as both of these happenings are solely attributable to the management system of railway authorities and the passenger has nothing to do with it.
- That the railway authorities shall provide an efficient and accurate information system for the passengers so that additional loss and hardships incurred by them can be avoided. This step can also help in increasing customer satisfaction and building customer’s trust in the system which will have a positive impact on its growth.
- It is recommended that the amendment made to increase the cancellation charges for lower classes of railways shall be withdrawn and earlier charges shall be restored. Instead of overburdening the lower and middle-income groups, the government shall concentrate on other possible solutions for revenue generation.
- That the railway shall refund the full amount which here means, amount with GST and convenience fee. As the passengers had not used the service of travelling by it due to the cancellation of the train. They should be provided with a full refund which is neither provided in this pandemic situation also. They deduct the convenience fee paid on the ticket.
The concept of service quality is built by the fundamental aspects of tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. This structure is universally accepted and followed by many service industries. The current study is focusing to find the service quality of airline services. The airline services are completely different from other transport services due to its nature and complexity. The various elements of service quality have deep-rooted relationships among them and help to explore overall service quality. The airline services are complex due to their continuous and sequential order. From ticket booking to baggage reclaim there are plenty of systematic mechanisms. In each sequential order, the passengers are expecting better quality in services. From the service point of view, the expectation of services will vary from passenger to passenger. The expectations will be fulfilled according to the perceived satisfaction of passengers. Therefore, satisfaction is the ultimate point which shows the quality of service. In this study, it is identified that the passenger’s expectations in case of ticket booking and refund of the ticket are very high. These are all some important elements that are highly influencing the passengers to decide their travel and airline service provider. It is identified that perceived satisfaction is the predominant factor which leads to decide the level of service quality.
- The New Indian Express visited on 20/07/2020 at 5.30 pm.
- Live mint visited on 21/07/2020 at 8.30 am
- Shodhganga visited on 21/07/2020 at 12.10 pm
- Shodhganga visited at 22/07/2020 at 11.55 am
The authors of this article are Sunil Mallan and Priyanka Porwal. Mr Mallan is an advocate who has been practising before the Honourable Supreme Court of India, The Punjab & Haryana High Court and other Courts and Tribunals. He is also a solicitor, corporate lawyer, certified Corporate Consultant and Business Professional 18 years of experience. The authors can be reached at [email protected]
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