Sunday, April 26, 2020

Private Airlines Reopen Flight Bookings; SpiceJet from May 16, IndiGo from June 1

Kolkata: Private airline companies, operating in India, have reopened advanced bookings for both domestic and international flights. Their respective websites show that booking systems have begun operating from Saturday. Spicejet and GoAir websites show that they are taking bookings with departures from 16 May. Meanwhile, Indigo and Vistara have decided to start bookings for flights, departing from 1 June. However, State-owned Air India is yet to restart bookings at all.

India is going through a 40-day nationwide lock-down, in effect, from March 25th, to curb the spread of Coronavirus. It was originally set till 14th April but got extended to May 3. Now, this airline decision comes exactly a week after Civil Aviation Ministry reprimanded several airline companies for restarting bookings for flights, set to depart, after the first phase of lockdown. The ministry had further directed them not to open bookings, till further instructions.

Even though private airline carriers had reopened bookings for a few days, starting April 14th, it was Air India’s decision to do the same from April 18th that drew the ministry’s ire. The DGCA was compelled to release direct orders, after vexed tweets from Civil Aviation minister, to stop taking bookings. It is not clear, at the moment, if airline companies have got the ministry’s approval to reopen bookings.

The centre eased a few restrictions for select businesses, on Saturday. It is possible airlines took that as a signal to restart their business activities. They are jumping the gun with this decision because they are struggling with permanent operational costs alongside heavy losses. Airlines have tried to cut costs, during this time of crisis, by doling out job or pay cuts or sending their staff on leave without pay.
26/04/20 Saunak Chowdhury/Indian Wire
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