Air India has indicated that it will not take any flight bookings until May. This comes after a report that the government of India has asked the carrier to suspend bookings through April 30th.
Air India to suspend flight bookings until April 30th
In a report by the Economic Times, the Indian government has asked the flag carrier to suspend bookings through April 30th, 2020. This move comes as India is under a lockdown through mid-April. Due to the lockdowns, airlines were told not to take any flight bookings for travel until April 15th.
This means that Air India will not operate any flights until May. This is in contrast to directives for private airlines. India’s Civil Aviation Minister announced that airlines could take bookings for domestic flights after 14th April. International flights, meanwhile, will operate on a case-by-case basis.
What will this mean for Air India?
If competitors are back in the air before Air India, it definitely will give private airlines an advantage for carrying passengers in India. Competitors are already scheduling flights after April 15th.
However, some are speculating that India may extend its lockdown until the end of April. If that is the case, then airlines will have to cancel more flights and work to rebook passengers. Ultimately, the goal of the government is to limit the spread of infection across the country.
The Indian government may seek Air India’s assistance to operate repatriation flights. There are still some Indian citizens abroad and some foreign citizens in India. Previously, the flag carrier has devoted some aircraft and operations toward offering repatriation flights. Although, it is unclear if the Indian government would wish to bring citizens home from abroad after the lockdown ends which may cause a spread in the virus if a passenger is carrying it.
On March 26th, an Air India Boeing 777 flew a repatriation flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv bringing Israeli citizens home.
— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) March 26, 2020Advertisement:
Some of the passengers seemed to be in good spirits prior to boarding. Although, knowing that they were heading home was likely a big factor for their mood.
— Air India (@airindiain) March 26, 2020
Repatriation flights require a lot of careful planning. Governments have to work together, the aircraft and crew need to be prepared with special cleaning and operational measures, and passenger transportation and quarantine after arrival has to be arranged.
Air India will not take any flight bookings for travel prior to April 30th. It appears now that the airline will not fly any flights until May. It is unclear if this means that India will extend its nationwide lockdown.
Will you fly Air India from May? Do you think Air India should operate more repatriation flights? Let us know in the comments!