Hundreds of customers struggle to get refunds after flights cancelled amid pandemic

By Xu Keyue Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2020/3/31 23:58:39

Customs officers inspect an inbound flight at the Capital International Airport in Beijing, capital of China, March 18, 2020. Photo: Xinhua


At least 350 Chinese passengers, who planned to return to China from abroad, found it hard to get refunds totaling $826,842, after many international flights were cancelled amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, complaining some foreign airlines and ticket agencies broke policies and tricked customers.

The Global Times reporter reached three WeChat groups where a total of more than 600 users discussed how to get their refunds and protect their rights and interests. Among them 350 passengers completed a questionnaire on their flights and refund updates.

According to the questionnaire, some of the passengers said they received emails from the airlines notifying they could rebook travel within the next year, some said they could withdraw a small portion of the airfare, some said they could get no money but only a voucher, and some said they couldn't get any refund at all.

The questionnaire shows airfares from abroad to China per person range from more than 2,000 yuan ($281.9) to 120,000 yuan, bringing the total to 5.87 million yuan.

The passengers bought tickets on official websites of foreign airlines and Chinese online ticket platforms including qunar.com, ctrip.com and fliggy.com.

Many passengers accused the airlines and platforms of cheating customers as the tickets they bought allowed for refunds or ticket exchanges.

A passenger surnamed Zhang, who bought a ticket from London, UK to Shanghai, China via Singapore departing on Monday, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he bought the Singapore Airlines ticket on qunar.com for 9,448 yuan and his application for a refund was refused by the platform. Zhang said he was told by customer service that Singapore Airlines doesn't refund tickets.

Zhang said now he has to stay in his London-based home all the time except to go shopping for daily necessities early in the morning when few people go out.

A principal of qunar.com told the Global Times that it was the airlines who breached their policies and the platform is only responsible for helping the customers to safeguard their rights and interests. "The platform has no responsibility or obligation to issue refunds," said the principal.

The principal noted currently more than 10 foreign airlines said they could only compensate passengers with travel vouchers as the coronavirus spreads worldwide has caused a lot of cancellations of international flights.

A staff member from ctrip.com also said refunds depend on an airline company's own policies.

Because the epidemic in many Western countries including the US has worsened, many Chinese nationals have decided to return to China where the outbreak has been basically brought under control.

"The number of imported cases has been in double digits for several consecutive days, which undoubtedly brings challenges to the domestic epidemic prevention and control, resumption of production and work, and people's lives and health. In such a situation, the country must take more decisive and effective measures to curb the high risk of imported infections," said an official of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) at a press conference on Monday.

CAAC announced last Thursday that each foreign airline can have only one weekly flight to China to contain the increasing risks of imported COVID-19 cases, a move that came into effect on Sunday.

According to data published by China's National Health Commission, 48 more infections were confirmed on the Chinese mainland on Monday, all of which were imported cases from overseas, lifting the total of confirmed imported cases to 667.



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