Opinion: Don’t book any Indian flights for April 15, 2020 onwards yet

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions over the past few days about when can people start resuming their normal life and take off on a plane again. This situation has been caused because in India, no flights are operating at the moment. First, the Government of India shut down visas to access India, when they determined too many imported cases were coming into India. Then they decided of shutting international flights altogether. Third, they grounded all domestic aviation for a week. Now, as things currently stand, there are no commercial scheduled civil aviation flights that will operate till April 14, 2020.

There has been no guidance from the Ministry of Civil Aviation or the DGCA on the guarantee that flights will operate on April 15, 2020, onwards. This is how they have described it:

Now, in a situation like this, I understand that further assessment and orders are not something that can be predicted ten days out. So, this puts customers and airlines on two different sides of the equation. An equation which is not equal in the current times.

Usually, customers pay a fare and get to fly on a specific day. Payment for service and consumption of the service are two sides of the equation. In the current scenario, if one ends up paying for a service, there is no guarantee whatsoever if the service will be delivered, because it is a situation not in the hands of the airlines at the moment. They are looking at April 15 as the current day of operation, but what if, this lockdown gets extended and then they can’t operate flights on April 15, 2020, and onwards?

In this situation, airlines will do the same thing that they have been doing. Hand you out a credit shell/voucher for a service they were not able to deliver. And what you will be left with is a promissory note on an airline which may or may not survive the turmoil. (I am assuming the weaker players will again get weeded out, given no bailout is coming, YET). What you need is a refund, and hence this equation becomes unbalanced.

the wing of a plane

Air India has already shut reservations till April 30, 2020. What do they know that the others don’t yet? The official line is, this is being done out of abundant caution. This abundant caution needs to be maintained by the customers as well.

If you are worried about a fare being cheap right now and expensive later, I don’t think that will be the case. Given everyone will start from zero demand again, and the business travellers won’t be in the market (assuming corporate risk departments still keep them grounded), I’d expect prices to be low for a while going ahead if airlines will be operating a full schedule. Even otherwise, your safety is a more significant concern than getting somewhere in the current times.

The bottom line is, get on a plane on April 15, 2020, only if you need to. And if you need to go, make sure you first see the grounding lifted on the airline before you purchase a ticket. Otherwise, be fully prepared to land yourself a lemon again (a voucher) and finance the working capital of an airline.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Are you booking tickets for travel in April 2020 yet?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. I wasn’t ranting ! Emirates is not a European airline. I accept they will keep money in abeyance. My frustration is that I am unable to get through to AI and the spice-jet tickets are over £250. In Addition to these one way tickets for two persons, I have four flights with AI all booked direct. Believe me that was nowhere near a rant. I take your point Idian airlines don’t have to refund – I didn’t realise that – my bad.

  2. I am in the UK and totally unable to get through to Air India with which airline I have several flights booked, and two expensive tickets with SpiceJet (Jabalpur – Mumbai) which wanted to charge me 6,500 # to cancel the flights and then only keep the balance in a shell. Who knows if I will be coming to India within the next 12 months anway even if the airline survives? Now I see they are making no cancellation charges for April so I am waiting to see if this is extended to May – I understand and accept the airlines want to retain this money to aid their survival but I have the same with my Emirates flights from UK to India and that ticket was £1399 and Emirates cancelled my flight.

    • There is no need to rant as these are very different scenarios – you’re comparing a flight from the UK (Europe) that is guided by EU261 regulations that require airlines to refund or compensate for cancellations, delays etc. There is no such rule in India, or even the US, which is why airlines like Delta are offering credit vouchers for up to 2 years.

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