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NEW DELHI : Customers are taking to social media platforms to complain about hefty cancellation charges levied by online travel agents (OTA) such as MakeMyTrip and Yatra.com in the wake of multiple cancellation requests received due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Across the social media handles (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) of these travel sites, a sense of frustration prevails with multiple customers complaining about cancellation charges, unavailability of customer support staff and refund status. While many are seen sharing their flight booking screenshots others have brought up lack of customer support and dealing with standard bot replies while attempting to reschedule flights or tweak itineraries.

A majority of these complaints are airline centric despite Indian aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) advising all international airlines operating to and from India to waive off cancellation charges, or offer other incentives.

Saujanya Shrivastava, Chief Business Officer, MakeMyTrip said that the company is not levying any fee for processing cancellation or rescheduling requests for domestic as well as international flights up to 30 April.

"We understand this is a difficult time for travellers and we want to support them during this period of uncertainty. We continue to work closely with all our airline partners for lenient customer policies for date change, cancellations and waivers in the face of evolving travel situation. We are also seamlessly passing on waiver benefits to our customers, wherever applicable," he added.

Sanjana Prakash, 28-year old media professional from New Delhi, said that she has been struggling to reschedule her flight tickets to Bali on MakeMyTrip.

"I've booked Malaysian Airlines and although the airline itself is allowing rescheduling till December with any destination I haven't been able to reschedule the tickets online and not been able to get in touch with the customer support staff at MakeMyTrip which is frustrating," she said.

Declining to comment on levy of platform specific cancellation and convenience fee charges, Yatra.com stated that on priority the platform is resolving requests/issues of customers who are scheduled to travel within 24 to 48 hours, and are initiating refund as per the airline(s) fare rules and cancellation policy. Yatra has also launched a Trip Protection Plan although it comes at a one time fee payment where customers can avail for refund if they want to cancel their travel plans.

"In case our travellers want to cancel or delay their reservations, we at Yatra.com are advising and helping customers to postpone their travel dates and book for alternate dates," said a Yatra.com spokesperson in an emailed response to Mint.

Airlines, however, continue to levy cancellation charges on domestic flights. An IndiGo spokesperson said full refunds are being given only in special cases.

“When we have had to cancel flights due to any government intervention, on account of visa policies or similar, we give our customers full refunds. In common with other LCC (Low Cost Carrier) practice, for domestic flights which we expect to operate (and therefore incur significant costs), we are allowing free changes for all," the spokesperson said.

SpiceJet is also offering free rescheduling of flights but is continuing with cancellation charges for domestic flights. Spokespeople for Air India and GoAir declined to comment.

Meanwhile, hotels and hospitality chains are still working out fee waivers with online travel sites.

MakeMyTrip said that it is closely working with hotel partners for lenient customer policies on date change, cancellations and waivers.

Home sharing platform Airbnb recently extended its Extenuating Circumstances Policy which allows hosts and guests to cancel eligible reservations with no charge or penalty. The policy now applies to existing reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 March, with check-in dates between 14 March and 14 April.

"This policy applies to bookings of places to stay and Airbnb Experiences in every country and region around the world, with the exception of domestic travel in mainland China which is scheduled to return to normal rules on April 1," said Airbnb in a statement.

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