All airlines, expect Air India, are now accepting bookings for travel starting April 15. The national carrier has opened bookings for travel from May 1.
Dinesh Chauhan* has been stuck in Pune for over a fortnight, and looking forward to April 15, when he can book a flight to Hyderabad, where his family lives. But he hasn't booked yet.
"Though I am desperate to be back with my family, given the risks and the uncertainty, I am still unsure what to do," said Chauhan, who had been to Pune on a business visit.
There are scores of others who are facing the same conundrum. But being cautious is a good thing.
"While we understand that some people may need to travel for critical reasons, we would recommend people to exercise caution and travel only when it is essential even after the lockdown ends," said Aloke Bajpai, CEO & Co-Founder, ixigo.
"We have already started seeing flight bookings picking up for travel starting April 15," said Sabina Chopra, Co-Founder and COO, Corporate Travel & Head Industry Relations, Yatra.com.
"These individuals are mostly those wanting to go back to their hometown to meet their families or traveling for essential purposes such as medical or legal needs," pointed out Chopra.
Apart from Air India, all the other airlines have started accepting bookings. The national airline is accepting bookings only for travel starting May 1.
Not just the fliers, the airlines are also cautious about the operations.
IndiGo, the largest carrier, usually operates over 35 daily flights between Delhi and Mumbai. But for April 15, it has only 14. Similar is the case with Vistara and SpiceJet.
And the fare?
"As far as the fare trend goes, if we compare fares from pre-COVID-19 periods, we don’t see much of a change in fares for the post lockdown period of 15th-30th April for key domestic sectors," says Bajpai of ixigo.
"This is despite a decreased seating capacity on flights, which will continue to sell only the aisle and window seats post the lockdown to maintain social distancing by keeping the middle seat empty," he adds.
Across airlines, one-way fares from Mumbai to Delhi, range from about Rs 4,500 to up to Rs 11,000.
Apart from the possible risk that a passenger exposes himself or herself to while traveling, there is also the uncertainty around the flights.
There is no word yet if the lockdown will be completely lifted from April 15, or if it will be a phased one.
That also puts a question mark on the flights. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri himself clarified:
"News about the resumption of passenger flights in a staggered manner from April 15, is mere speculation. The correct position is spelt out in my tweet of 2nd April 2020," he had tweeted on April 5.
On April 2, he had said: "The current lockdown on both international and national passenger flights is till April 15. A decision to restart the flights after this period remains to be taken. If required, we will have to access the situation, on a case-by-case basis."
That is why, Chopra of Yatra.com said, "still a vast majority of the population are in a wait-and-watch period and refraining to travel as a precautionary measure."
What if you have booked for April 15, but then airlines cancel the flights because the lockdown is either not lifted, or is lifted in phases?
Most airlines will have you covered, as they have assured bookings till April 30. These bookings will be credited into the passenger's account, and the amount can be used later.*Name changed