New Delhi: Government has directed airlines to ensure tickets issued using the now-withdrawn Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes directly from counters at airports are "non-refundable" following an unusual surge in such bookings since the high-value currencies were demonetised two days ago.
Stepping up the fight against the black money menace, the government has demonetised the two high-denomination notes, but their use has been allowed for select purposes, including purchasing tickets from counters for air travel, train journey and travel in government-run buses till November 11.
The government's directive to airline operators came amid concerns that unscrupulous elements could be using air ticket booking as a means to convert their unaccounted cash into legal transactions by cancelling the bookings later and take back the refund.
Sources said the directive came from the "top level" in the government.
Aviation regulator DGCA has asked the airlines to strictly make sure customers booking through counters at airports using the withdrawn Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes are not able to cancel or get any refund for such tickets, they added.
While there has been no official announcement from the government and DGCA about the directive, some airlines have already announced that air tickets booked in the last 48 hours using old currency notes will not be refunded or cancelled.
Airline officials said there has been a significant jump in over-the-counter booking of flight tickets since the government announced the demonetisation.
"We generally see bookings at the airport counters to the tune of Rs 20-25 lakh per day. However, in the last 48 hours, it has risen significantly to around Rs 1 crore, which is almost a four-fold jump," no-frills airline SpiceJet's spokesperson Ajay Jasra told PTI.
In a tweet, full-service carrier Vistara said "tickets sold at airport ticket counters with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes are strictly non-refundable".
Vistara, a joint venture between the Tatas and Singapore Airlines, also said these notes cannot be accepted for ancillary payments such as for excess baggage, upgrades, cancel or change fee, among others. They can only be accepted towards the purchase of air tickets, it added.
"Those who have booked tickets on counter in the last 48 hours using old currency will not be able to refund or cancel," Jasra tweeted.
However, Jet Airways said it was the demonetised notes not only for ticket bookings, but also for ancillary services such as excess baggage and upgrades.
The demonetised currency notes can be used to make bookings at airport ticket counters until 2359 hours on November 11.
Declaring a "decisive" war against black money and corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday said high-denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 will no longer be legal tender from mid-night that day.
To minimise inconvenience to people, the government has allowed use of these currency notes for 72 hours till mid-night tomorrow for certain purposes, including booking of airline and railway tickets from the counters.