Stop Bookings, No Decision On Flights From May 4: Aviation Regulator

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier this week extended the nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25 to check the spread of COVID-19, to May 3.

Flight operations had halted last month amid a nationwide lockdown. (File)

Highlights

  • The aviation sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic
  • Flight operations had halted last month amid a nationwide lockdown
  • Airlines have been told not to take bookings after May 3, said sources
New Delhi:

No decision has been taken to restart the domestic and international flight operations after the second phase of lockdown ends on May 3, aviation regulator - Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA - said on Sunday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week extended the lockdown till May 3 to arrest the growth of COVID-19 cases in the country.

"In these circulars, there was no direction/clearance, which allows the airlines to start ticket bookings for the journeys to be undertaken w.e.f the 4th of May 2020. In this respect, it is brought to the notice of all concerned that no decision to commence the operation of domestic/international flights w.e.f the 4th of May 2020 has been taken yet," a statement from the regulator read.

"In view of this, all airlines are hereby directed to refrain from booking tickets as described above," it added.

On Saturday, a Group of Ministers (GoM) who attended a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at his residence expressed concern over resuming trains and flights, sources have said, adding that a final call would be taken after the Union Health Ministry gives its inputs.

Air traffic and passenger trains were suspended last month, days before the nationwide shutdown began on March 25.

This afternoon, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that the central government has not taken any decision on resuming train or airline services. Asked if the government is looking at any timeline, he told news agency PTI, "It has to start one day but which is that one day you don't know at this moment. Discussion about it is futile because we are examining the situation every day and drawing new lessons."

On Saturday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had made similar remarks hours after Air India on its website said that it is taking bookings for travel from May 4 on some domestic routes and from June 1 for international routes.

"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," Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted.

Two days after PM Modi extended the countrywide lockdown, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday asked the airlines to refund tickets booked during the COVID-19 lockdown within three weeks without cancellation fees. The directive applied to all the domestic and international tickets booked during the first phase of the nationwide lockdown (March 25-April 14).

The aviation sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines have either slashed salaries or asked employees to go on a sabbatical without pay.

IndiGo announced a pay cut of up to 25 per cent for its senior employees and Vistara announced compulsory leave without pay for up to three days for its senior employees in March.

SpiceJet said salaries would be cut by 10 to 30 per cent and Air India has announced a 10 per cent cut in allowances for every employee, except cabin crew, for three months.