The restrictions on domestic and international flight operations will be lifted when the government is confident that spread of the novel coronavirus has been controlled, and poses no danger to Indians, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Monday, amidst reports of some airlines doing open bookings.
In a series of tweets, the minister also said a directive was issued on Sunday to airlines, restraining them from doing open bookings since they did not heed to government's advice in the matter.
"I want to once again say that flight restrictions that are in place as a result of India's fight against COVID-19 will be lifted once we are confident that spread of the virus has been controlled and it poses no danger to our country and people," he tweeted.
The minister said,"since some airlines did not heed our advisory and opened bookings, and started collecting money from flyers, a directive was issued to them on 19th April restraining them from doing so. They were also informed that they will be given sufficient notice and time to commence bookings."
While government-run Air India stopped the bookings after the government's advisory, private carriers ignored it and continued taking bookings for travel after May 3, prompting the aviation regulator DGCA to issue a circular on Sunday.
"All airlines are hereby directed to refrain from booking tickets... Further, the airlines may note that they shall be given sufficient notice and time for restarting operations," the circular said.
All domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for the lockdown period. However, cargo flights and special flights, permitted by the DGCA, can fly during the duration of the lockdown.
Meanwhile, several passengers have posted their complaints on social media against Indian airlines for not refunding booking amounts for flights cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown, and instead issuing credit vouchers for future travel.
On April 16, the aviation ministry said that passengers can ask airlines for full refunds if the bookings were done during the first phase of lockdown for travel up to May 3.
However, the government has not taken any decision so far on whether full refunds should be issued to passengers who booked their tickets before the lockdown began for travel during the March 25-May 3 period.
The first phase of the lockdown was from March 25 to April 14, and was later extended by 19 days till May 3.