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COVID-19: Airlines begin flight bookings from May 4 but expect surge in prices

NEW DELHI: Flight  operations are likely to resume after May 3 when the lockdown ends as several airlines, including the national carrier Air India, have started booking tickets on domestic routes after May 3. Air India on Saturday opened bookings for select domestic flights from May 4 and for international flights from June 1. Government sources said airlines may have to follow social distancing norms.

Although guidelines are yet to be framed, aviation authorities are likely to seek a standard 1.5 meter distance between air passengers at airports starting from the entry to the security check-in point during the initial few days of the postlockdown period. An official said the airlines would also have to follow the distancing norms even inside the aircraft and only one seat might be allowed to be booked for seating in one row having three seats.

While this is likely to result in a spike in air fares, sources said the airlines were ready to comply with all the directives of the government in the light of the current circumstances. Air India, in a notification posted on its official website, said: “In the light of the ongoing global health concerns, we have currently stopped accepting bookings on all domestic flights for travel till May 3, 2020, and on all international flights for travel till May 31, 2020.”

“Bookings for select domestic flights for travel from May 4, 2020, and for international flights for travel from June 1, 2020 onwards are open,” the notification said. Apart from this, many private airlines also started accepting bookings from May 4 on travel agg re gat o r websites. India has been under lockdown since March 25 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The first phase of the lockdown was from March 25 to April 14. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 14 extended the lockdown till May 3. All domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended during this period. On April 3, Air India had said it had stopped bookings, both domestic and international, till the end of the month.