Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri may have indicated that international travel is still some time away, but that hasn’t stopped airlines from accepting bookings.
A cursory look at the websites of airlines, including that of IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and Vistara, shows each of them is letting customers book tickets for international destinations. These destinations include Singapore, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
National carrier Air India though is not accepting any bookings for international travel.
Bookings continue even though international flights have been banned since March after government order.
“They're deceiving the people,” a senior executive from the travel industry said of the airlines. “No one knows when flights will resume or what the schedule will be. Gullible people's money will be stuck in credit shells,” he added.
Interestingly, industry executives said bookings for international travel have been open for some time including in May for travel in June. “It’s always been like that. When the lockdown was till May 31, international bookings were open from June 1, and previously also,” said a senior executive from an airline.
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An executive from another airline said tickets for cancelled international flights will be kept in credit shell, just like it was for the domestic services.
Domestic flights had resumed on May 25, with one-third of the summer schedule.
Ability to resume
Taking to social media platform Twitter on June 1, Puri had said ‘several factors’ need to be addressed before international operations resume.
One factor, the Minister had pointed out was that domestic operations need to scale up to 50-60 percent of their usual schedule. This is crucial as domestic flights are needed to feed passengers in airports situated in bigger cities, from where most of the international flights take off.
“Within India, most international flights operate from the metros where travellers arrive from neighbouring cities & states. Our metro cities were under various degrees of lockdown which are beginning to be lifted. Some of them are still allowing only limited flights to operate,” Puri said.
Also, as the minister pointed out, many international destinations are not allowing incoming passenger traffic, except for their own citizens or diplomats.
Interestingly, many of the international destinations to which airlines accept bookings, are yet to open up. Singapore, for instance, has said it will start by allowing transit flights at its Changi airport in June. Singapore Airlines has talked about reinstating flights to select destinations in June and July. No firm dates are available yet.
Likewise, airlines are accepting bookings for Bangkok, starting June 30. But the local government had extended the ban on incoming international flights till the end of June. It is yet to give a date for re-opening its airports for international travellers.
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