Aviation consultancy CAPA on Thursday said allowing domestic airlines to take advance bookings from April 15 is "unfair" to consumers since a decision on lifting the nationwide lockdown is yet to be taken.
During the lockdown period, only special flights approved by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), medical evacuation flights and those carrying cargo, including medical equipment, to and from different parts of the country are operational.
While the government is yet to decide on lifting the lockdown, Indian airlines have started taking bookings for travel on domestic flights from April 15. Air India has suspended sale of tickets for domestic and international flights till April 30.
"The decision to allow opening of advance bookings from April 14 without a decision on lifting of the lockdown and likely structure of the transition period post the lockdown needs to be immediately reviewed as this is unfair to consumers," Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) said in a statement.
Citing examples of erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines and now-defunct Jet Airways, CAPA said that the closure of these two carriers has "already resulted in massive losses to passengers as refunds couldn't be processed resulting in crores of losses to passengers". Kingfisher Airlines shut down in 2012, while Jet Airways ceased operations in April last year owing to liquidity crunch.
CAPA said that as and when lockdown is lifted and the structure of the transition period is known, the civil aviation ministry should only allow reopening of the bookings on the sectors which would be operated by Indian airlines during transition and not the entire network.
The airlines are forcing customers to accept credit vouchers with their validity, in some cases, as long as one year. Giving credit vouchers for all advance bookings prior to the lockdown was expected and is reasonable, but not for bookings post April, it noted.
Most airlines, including domestic players, have refused to refund customers whose flights either got cancelled due to the suspension of all commercial passenger flights in the wake of 21-day lockdown, or travel restrictions overseas. There are eight scheduled carriers in India -- IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir, AirAsia India, Vistara, Air India, Air India Express and Alliance Air.