Despite over 5K deaths, over 140K people infected, including 84 confirmed cases of coronavirus in India, online travel aggregator EaseMyTrip believes that customers should simply fly without worrying about the risk of coronavirus. While countries across the globe have put travel restrictions after WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, the travel booking site claimed that such steps are not prudent.
In an emailer to customers on March 12, EaseMyTrip said that it is “safe” to travel during the coronavirus outbreak. The company has claimed that “as per WHO, no evidence suggests that restricting travel and tourism can control the spread of coronavirus.”
The company further claimed that “India is one of the least affected countries, with less than 100 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and no deaths have been registered here,” which is a complete lie.
The statement is completely in contrast to government advisories and numbers, where the first death due to Coronavirus in India was reported on March 10 and the second one has been reported on March 13.
Dialling things up a notch, EaseMyTrip ludicrously claimed that “risk of infection is quite less in most of the countries and travel restrictions are not prudent”. According to WHO, over 123 countries have reported cases of coronavirus and it has suggested citizens around the world enter a period of social distancing to stop the pandemic from spreading.
Even as governments, organisations and businesses offer free masks and sanitizers to the public for prevention, EaseMyTrip advised its customers that “healthy people should wear a mask while taking care of an infected person or if they are coughing or sneezing”.
An industry player told Inc42 on the condition of anonymity that startups should cross-check and verify the information since they can be misleading. The player added that the company should have instead talked about the insurance product they can offer.
Beyond misleading customers with this advisory in the time of a global crisis, EaseMyTrip has also told customers repeatedly on social media platforms that it will only refund them for cancellation of travel tickets if airlines do so. Hence, completely shrugging off its hands as the world tries to ensure precaution and safety amid the pandemic.
However, in media statements, EaseMyTrip CEO Nishant Pitti has said that there has been a huge drop in outbound travel, especially in the bookings for the Southeast Asian countries.
“We have witnessed a sudden hike in the number of cancellations since the outbreak. Travellers have become very cautious about their travel plans and they are either postponing their trips, changing their destinations or cutting trips short to return home sooner. Cancellations have risen up to 30 to 35%,” he was quoted as saying.
In contrast, several other OTAs like MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Ixigo etc have offered full-refund on cancellations through several schemes.
Update: March 14, 2020 | 21:55 PM
After the story was published, EaseMyTrip sent a statement to Inc42 claiming,”EaseMyTrip is a socially responsible Indian company working with an aim to provide seamless satisfactory services to our customers. We at EaseMyTrip, are facilitating & extending all possible support to our customers in the present situation. Apart from working along with airlines to get best possible outcome for our customers, we also provide a zero cancellation feature allowing all our customers to avail full refund (anytime before 24 hours of travel). This feature is available regardless of refunds offered by the airlines.”
Update: March 15, 2020 | 15:30 PM
Company statement updated.