Air, Train Travel Unlikely to Resume From May 3, Reports Say

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New Delhi: Air India has stopped taking bookings on all flights, said its officials, a day after Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri “advised” airlines to open bookings only after the government takes a decision on resuming passenger flights.

The minister’s comment came on Saturday night, hours after the national carrier stated that it has opened bookings on select domestic flights from May 4 and on select international flights from June 1.

The decision came amidst reports that restrictions on air and train travel may continue beyond May 3, when the 40-day lockdown in India to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic comes to an end.

Hindustan Times quoting a union minister reported that there was a suggestion in the meeting chaired by Defence minister Rajnath Singh at his house that air travel may be started on May 15. These and other suggestions from a free-wheeling discussion attended by ministers including Textile minister Smriti Irani, aviation minister Hardeep Puri and others, will be conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a final decision.

Air India officials said on Sunday: “We have stopped all forward bookings now. Any passenger who has booked tickets on a flight, which has been cancelled, would be getting a credit voucher for future travel.”

On April 3, during the first phase of the lockdown, Air India had announced that it has stopped bookings on both domestic and international flights till April 30.

A notification on Air India’s website on Saturday read, “Bookings for select domestic flights for travel from May 4, 2020, and for international flights for travel from June 1, 2020, onwards are open.” The notification has been removed from the website.

Private sector airlines, however, continue to take bookings from May 4 onwards.

Haven’t received any govt notice on bookings open from May 4: Vistara, AirAsia India

Vistara and AirAsia India said on Sunday they have not received any notice from the aviation ministry on this matter.

All Indian airlines, including Vistara and AirAsia India, are currently taking bookings on select flights from May 4.

“We shall await the ministry’s notice in this regard. We have suspended operations and sales until May 3, following the last circular,” Vistara spokesperson said.

“Once there is clarity on steps to be taken beyond that date, we will comply accordingly,” the spokesperson added.

AirAsia India spokesperson told PTI that the lockdown issued by the government is till May 3 and hence flights are available for bookings May 4 onwards.

Flight bookings have been made available as passengers need to make travel and associated purchase decisions in advance. This also helps them get cheaper fares, the Air Asia India spokesperson clarified.

“We have not received any formal notification from MoCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation)/ DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) specifying any future period beyond May 3 for which airlines need to stop accepting bookings,” the spokesperson stated.

The spokesperson also noted that as there is uncertainty following the coronavirus pandemic, travellers are cognizant of the possibility of the lockdown getting extended in which case they can always reschedule their flights for free.

On Saturday night, Civil Aviation Minister Puri said on Twitter the government has not taken any decision to open domestic or international flight operations so far.

“Airlines are advised to open their bookings only after a decision in this regard has been taken by the government,” he said.

Several passengers have complained on social media that Indian airlines are not giving refunds for flights cancelled due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown and instead issuing credit vouchers for future travel.

On April 16, the Ministry of Civil Aviation stated that travellers can ask airlines for full refunds if the bookings were done during the first phase of the lockdown for travel up to May 3.

The first phase of the lockdown imposed in the country in view of the coronavirus outbreak was from March 25 to April 14. The second phase started on April 15 and will end on May 3.

All domestic and international commercial passenger flight operations have been suspended during the lockdown period. However, cargo flights and special flights authorised by aviation regulator DGCA have been permitted during this period.

The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 507 and the number of cases to 15,712 in the country on Sunday, according to the Union Health Ministry.

Several passengers have complained on social media that Indian airlines are not giving refunds for flights cancelled due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown and instead issuing credit vouchers for future travel.

On April 16, the Ministry of Civil Aviation stated that travellers can ask airlines for full refunds if the bookings were done during the first phase of the lockdown for travel up to May 3.

The first phase of the lockdown imposed in the country in view of the coronavirus outbreak was from March 25 to April 14. The second phase started on April 15 and will end on May 3.

All domestic and international commercial passenger flight operations have been suspended during the lockdown period. However, cargo flights and special flights authorised by aviation regulator DGCA have been permitted during this period.

The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 507 and the number of cases to 15,712 in the country on Sunday, according to the Union Health Ministry.

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