Aviation minister H S Puri Tweeted: “The ministry of civil aviation clarifies that so far no decision has been taken to open domestic or international operations. Airlines are advised to open their bookings only after a decision in this regard has been taken by the government.”
The Ministry of Civil Aviation clarifies that so far no decision has been taken to open domestic or international o… https://t.co/sNCQPhicSN
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) 1587229278000
Puri’s directive came hours after Air India opened bookings for select domestic flights from May 4 (lockdown ends on May 3, unless extended again) and some international ones from June 1.
The late Saturday night directive is a likely fallout of the sharp criticism of the ministry’s recent advisory that proposed full refund of tickets only to those passengers who booked their flights during the first lockdown period but could not travel because the lockdown was extended and their flights were cancelled.
Since people book in advance, this order meant that those who bought tickets directly from airlines or via travel agents/portals on or before March 24 to travel between March 25 and May 3 (the lockdown period for now) would not get full refunds.
Airlines are offering two choices to people whose flights have been cancelled — retain the money with carriers as a “shell” for future travel anytime up to a year; or face steep cancellation charges if insisting on refunds.
Air India had on April 3 decided to stop bookings for all flights this month as it said it will await a decision on whether the March 25-April 14 (first phase of lockdown now) is extended or not.
“Airlines retaining booking amounts for flights cancelled during the lockdown or refunding the same after deducting a steep cancellation fee had not gone down well with people. The government’s refusal to intervene till Thursday (when it issued the partial relief order), while AI stopped accepting bookings for this month, was being construed to help private airline sail through the severe corona storm that is proving to be life-threatening for most airlines,” said a travel industry insider.
As of now there is no surety that the extended lockdown will end on May 3. Also, there is no certainty on when international flights to and from different countries will start taking off as that will happen only when two countries agree to lift travel restrictions for each other’s citizens. In such a situation, airlines keeping their bookings open could have meant more trouble for passengers in case the flight they have booked did not not eventually operate.