Hours after state-run carrier Air India said it has reopened bookings on Saturday, the Indian government clarified that it had not yet decided on allowing flight operations to resume from May 4, the day after the nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus would be lifted.
“The Ministry of Civil Aviation clarifies that so far no decision has been taken to open domestic or international operations,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet. “Airlines are advised to open their bookings only after a decision in this regard has been taken by the Government.”
Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that the government is looking at the situation closely but it cannot say when transportation will resume, PTI reported. “It has to start one day, but you do not know which is that one day,” he told the news agency. “The discussion about it [resuming public transport] is futile because we are examining the situation every day and drawing new lessons.”
Javadekar added that airlines have decided to start bookings on their own and the government has not taken any such decision.
Air India had earlier on Saturday said it has reopened bookings for select domestic flights for travel from May 4, and for international flights for travel from June 1. “The situation is being constantly reviewed and we will keep you updated,” Air India posted on its website. However, the airline did not specify on which routes domestic flights would begin from May 4.
All domestic as well as international flights in India were suspended last month as the country went in a lockdown in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. This suspension was extended earlier this week when the nationwide lockdown was extended to May 3.
On April 16, the Centre had ordered airlines to fully refund passengers for the tickets booked during the lockdown period within three weeks, and without any cancellation fee. Both domestic and international passengers, who booked tickets during the nationwide lockdown which began on March 25, will be eligible for the refund.
The Centre’s order came after several passengers complained that airlines were not providing refunds for cancelled flights in cash and were instead issuing credit for future travel.
India’s Covid-19 tally as of Sunday morning stood at 15,712 patients, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, 12,974 people are being treated while 507 have died. As many as 2,230 people have recovered so far.