In an explicit notice issued on Sunday night, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has refrained airlines from accepting bookings, both domestic and international, starting from May 4, 2020. In its earlier notices, the Indian aviation regulator had suspended domestic and international flights till May 3, 2020, in light of the nation-wide lockdown having been extend.
The notice comes a day after Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted, “The Ministry of Civil Aviation clarifies that so far no decision has been taken to open domestic or international operations. Airlines are advised to open their bookings only after a decision in this regard has been taken by the Government.”
“There was no direction/clearance, which allows airlines to start bookings for the journeys to be undertaken w.e.f the 4th of May, 2020,” read the DGCA notice. “It is brought to the notice of all concerned that no decision to commence the operation of domestic /international flights w.e.f the 4th of May, 2020 has been taken yet.”
Airlines, added the DGCA notice, would be given sufficient notice and time for restarting operations. The directive is a clear indication that resumption of air travel in the country will be a long-drawn process.
Many domestic airlines, including flag carrier Air India, had started accepting flight bookings beginning May 4, the day after the lockdown ended. And with the focus now on social distancing, airlines and airports have been putting in place various measures to ensure that passengers maintain adequate distance from one another—right from airport check-in to on-board seating. The measures include: maintaining a distance of over one metre at check-in and security, keeping the middle seat empty in the aircraft, and stopping on-board meal services, among others.