Cancellations spike, bookings drop as states limit air ops

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New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) A massive spike in ticket cancellations, along with a drop in bookings, was reported by the aviation industry for Monday’s flights as several states moved to limit air operations.
Consequently, in order to calm nervous passengers, the Center said that barring just two states, the rest of the country is open to accept domestic flights. On Sunday evening, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted that states across the country will resume domestic flight services on Monday except Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
Airports in Andhra Pradesh will resume services on Tuesday, May 26 and West Bengal will restart on Thursday, May 28.
“It has been a long day of hard negotiations with various state govts to recommence civil aviation operations in the country. Except Andhra Pradesh which will start on 26/5 & West Bengal on 28/5, domestic flights will recommence across the country from tomorrow,” Puri tweeted.
Sources said that starting May 28, Kolkata and Bagdogra airports will each handle 10 arrivals and 10 departures per day.
Further, according to people in the know, both Vijayawada and Vizag airports in Andhra Pradesh will have 20 per cent of both arrivals and departures as planned under the Summer Schedule.
Hyderabad will resume services on Monday with 15 arrivals and 15 departures, sources said.
In another tweet, the minister said that starting Monday, there will be limited flights from Mumbai and as per approved one-third schedule from other airports in the state.
“As per request of state govt, operations in Andhra Pradesh will recommence on limited scale from 26 May. For Tamil Nadu there will be max 25 arrivals in Chennai but there’s no limit on number of departures. For other airports in TN flights will operate as in other parts of country,” Puri said.
Resultantly, passengers, who had booked for flights on these and other intra-metro route segment for May 25, rushed to cancel their tickets.
Notably impacted was the Delhi-Mumbai trunk route followed by flights to Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Industry insiders pointed out that majority of bookings received were for flights between metro cities, due to the “pent-up demand”, but now with limited operations and quarantine norms, a large number of queries have been received from passengers travelling to these cities.
Even airline executives were left in lurch as state after state came out with new norms for accepting flights, thereby, distorting their network planning.
Another daunting confusion was over the quarantine norm which many states said they will enforce on air travelers.
This led to a cascade of calls at the customer care centers of online travel agents.
Nevertheless, many passengers still wanted to travel, if they were provided with a choice for ‘Home Quarantine’.
Except for intra-metro routes, the total cancellations would have come to only about 15 per cent of the entire network, industry insiders told IANS.
In terms of bookings, a sharp drop of over 50 per cent was witnessed on Sunday on a daily sequential basis.
“All the passengers booking flights currently are travelling for their essential needs and multiple changes in the directives by individual states have left them utterly disappointed. Now with operation of only a fraction of earlier approved flights has caused a spike in cancellations and the passengers are once again left high and dry by the government,” Nishant Pitti, CEO and Co-Founder of EaseMyTrip.com, told IANS.
“In addition, to the continued uncertainty in their travel plan, more money will be blocked with the airlines.”
Aloke Bajpai, CEO & Co-Founder, ixigo, said: “There is some apprehension amongst travellers with the constantly evolving state specific quarantine protocols.”
“There might be a slight increase in cancellation or reschedule requests from travellers in the coming few days specifically for states that are not allowing air travel to resume starting tomorrow. We hope the state governments can take a more pragmatic and compassionate view of the situation given a vast majority of bookers are going back to their homes or travelling for essential or emergency reasons.”
On its part, the Centre had previously urged the state governments not to implement quarantine norms since inter-state transportation services are allowed under the provisions of lockdown 4.0.
During an online question and answer session on Saturday, Puri had said: “In a receiving state, if an incoming passenger has ‘Aarogya Setu’ app, and if he or she is green, why would the receiving state want to quarantine them after that.”
“Its not that if you don’t have an Aarogya Setu app, you will not be allowed to travel. We have said it is advisory, it is preferable… If you donโ€™t have Aarogya Setu you can give a self-declaration, if you don’t have an app… If somebody has symptoms they will be stopped at the airport. Why would any state want to quarantine somebody after these facts.”
Earlier, air passengers gave an overwhelming response to the re-commencement of passenger flight services from May 25, as healthy demand was witnessed for tickets on all metro routes.
The Center had only allowed limited passenger flight operations of about one-third capacity of the summer schedule to operate between metro cities and other destinations from May 25, adding that this capacity might be ramped up in the coming period.
Passenger air services were suspended for both scheduled domestic and international flights since March 25, due to the imposition of the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.