Indian airlines asked not to sell tickets before final decision on lockdown

The country is currently in the midst of a nationwide lockdown until May 3 to control the spread of the coronavirus

epa08369424 Indian police personnel wearing protective gear patrol in the streets of a hot spot area amid the nation-wide coronavirus lockdown in Mumbai, India, 17 April 2020. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14 April announced that the country's initial 21-day lockdown will be extended until 03 May 2020 in an attempt to curb the spread of of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes the COVID-19 disease.  EPA/DIVYAKANT SOLANKI
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India's aviation ministry has asked airlines to take travel bookings only after a final decision on the lifting or easing of restrictions on domestic and international flights is announced.

“The Ministry of Civil Aviation clarifies that so far no decision has been taken to open domestic or international operations,” minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet late on Saturday.

It wasn’t immediately clear if it was a binding order or an advisory for the country's aviation sector.

The country is currently in the midst of a nationwide lockdown until May 3 to control the spread of coronavirus infections.

India had initially announced a 21-day lockdown until April 14 and airlines had started selling tickets for flights before an extension until May 3 was announced last Tuesday.

There has been no clarity so far if flights, especially to international destinations, will be allowed even when the lockdown is lifted.

Airlines are now selling domestic and international tickets for flights starting from May 4.

National airline Air India said on its website on Saturday that it had opened bookings on selected domestic routes from May 4 and international ones from June 1.

Most airlines have offered credit instead of refunds for flights cancelled due to the travel curbs as the ticket sales provide them with much-needed cash flow at a time when all other sources of revenue have dried up.

Passengers worldwide are fighting against that practice, including in the US, and some governments have ordered airlines to refund passengers without charging a cancellation fee.