NEW DELHI :
Cash-strapped Indian carriers have again reopened bookings for passenger flights in the hope that the government will finally lift a nearly two-month ban on air travel from 1 June.
All airlines, other than national carrier Air India Ltd, have since the last weekend started to take bookings for domestic flights, two online travel agents said on condition of anonymity.
India suspended all flights since 25 March when the government first imposed a nationwide lockdown. The lockdown has since been extended thrice, every fortnight, from the initial announcement date. The latest and fourth phase will run till 31 May.
If the lockdown is extended beyond 31 May, customers can expect airlines to offer them credit shells for travel at a later date instead of a full refund, said one of the people cited earlier.
SpiceJet’s international bookings are closed till 15 June, said a spokesperson for the airline. However, the person did not comment on the airline’s domestic bookings. Spokespersons for IndiGo, GoAir, Vistara and AirAsia India did not respond to queries from Mint.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had in April pulled up airlines for selling tickets even as the lockdown to prevent the spread of covid-19 remained in force.
At the time, the regulator told the airlines to suspend such bookings till they receive further instructions as the virus continued to spread. Airlines were also told to refund full fares to those who had booked tickets during the first lockdown period from 25 March to 14 April for travel between 25 March and 3 May, but could not travel because of the curbs.
“Airlines are doing it at their risk and cost. However, they have to comply with DGCA civil aviation requirements on refunds and cancellations, failing which strict action will be taken," said a DGCA spokesperson.
Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday said the Centre alone cannot take a decision on resuming passenger flights and state governments should be ready to allow these services in the spirit of cooperative federalism.
“It is not up to the Ministry of Civil Aviation or the Centre alone to decide on resuming domestic flights. In the spirit of cooperative federalism, the government of states where these flights will take off & land should be ready to allow civil aviation operations," Puri tweeted.During the lockdown period, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights and special flights approved by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have been allowed to operate.