With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a complete lockdown across India, air travel in the country has been prohibited for 21 days starting Wednesday. Earlier, the flight suspension was in place till March 31. The suspension of around 3,300 daily flights means thousands of cancelled tickets and passengers who are left wondering about whether they will be refunded the booking amount.
Experts believe when mass cancellations of this scale occur, it is difficult for airlines to provide refunds to passengers and while all airlines are offering free change of itinerary to their passengers, IndiGo, GoAir and AirAsia India are offering credit shells to their passengers. This means the full amount of booking will be refunded albeit as a credit with the airline for reserving a ticket at a later date. This is a practice that is being followed by global airlines considering the uncertainty of operations returning to normalcy.
“I’m sure you’ll agree that, at this point, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that we are at war against the coronavirus and that it is a war we must win. The next few weeks are critical in this battle. With this in mind, IndiGo is in support of the government measures; to help in the elimination of COVID-2019, we are preparing an orderly suspension of flights from 00:00hrs on March 25, 2020 to 23:59hrs on March 31, 2020,” IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta said in a mail to the airline’s customers. The mail was sent prior to the PM’s speech.
Airlines, on their part, are carefully measuring each step to come out of this precarious situation that is seeing them bleed cash. On one hand, the full-fledged grounding has come as a blessing in disguise for most airlines as their costs will be reduced during the period. On the other hand, for some airlines, it would be imperative they get relief from some of the stakeholders such as lessors, airports, government, etc. Meanwhile, global airlines have urged governments to speed up bailouts to rescue the air transport industry as they doubled their estimate of 2020 revenue losses from the coronavirus crisis to more than $252 billion from $113 billion pegged earlier.
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