India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation has confirmed that all domestic and international flights remain suspended until 23.59 on May 3.
The announcement came after prime minister Narendra Modi extended the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown. In India, the covid-19 caseload crossed the 10,000 mark.
Mr Modi told India’s 1.3 billion people to stay inside until May 3, but conceded that some restrictions away from infection hotspots would be eased on April 20 in a bid to help poorer people dependent upon daily wages.
Customers now have a fight on their hands, since airlines are mostly denying refunds for flights booked from April 15 (when India’s original lockdown was due to end) until May.
Instead, they are offering a ‘credit shell’ or voucher for future use.
Air India declined to sell any tickets at all for the month of April, but most carriers accepted bookings for domestic flights from April 15, and for international services from May 1.
Airlines are now in a fight for survival, as revenues dry up while liabilities mount. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that airlines across the world owe passengers a staggering USD 35 billion for unused tickets.
Indian Railways announced its own suspension of services until May 3, though in contrast to the airlines it said full refunds would be issued to those affected by cancellations.
The refunds will be processed automatically for those who booked online, while passengers who booked at a counter have until July 31 to claim their money back.