Air India generic
Air India jets at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. (File Photo) Image Credit: AP

Dubai: India’s Civil Aviation Ministry has told airlines not to open bookings until the government takes a decision on flight operations, a move that has disappointed stranded Indians waiting to fly home from the UAE and elsewhere.

In a tweet posted on Saturday night, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri stated that the government had not yet taken a decision to open domestic or international operations.

“The Ministry of Civil Aviation clarifies that so far no decision has been taken to open domestic or international operations. Airlines are advised to open their bookings only after a decision in this regard has been taken by the Government,” the minister tweeted.

The tweet was posted hours after Air India on its website said that it is taking bookings for travel from May 4 on some domestic routes and from June 1 for international routes.

An Air India official in the UAE told Gulf News that the airline will now follow the government’s advisory.

“All airlines who had opened bookings to India are likely to close it today [following the advisory]. All are allowing passengers to change dates without imposing any penalties,” he said.

However, he admitted that passengers can now reschedule their tickets only after the government gives a clearance for new bookings.

Meanwhile, an NDTV report from India on Sunday said rail and air travel are unlikely to resume in India after May 3, when the second phase of lockdown ends.

“On Saturday, a Group of Ministers (GoM) who attended a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at his residence expressed concern over resuming trains and flights, sources have said, adding that a final call would be taken after the Union Health Ministry gives its inputs,” the report said, without naming the sources.

The decision has come as social distancing remains a concern in the fight against the highly infectious novel coronavirus or COVID-19, which has infected more than 15,000 people in India and killed more than 500, the report added.

However, the move has disappointed several Indians stranded in the UAE and other countries.

Many of them tweeted in reply to Puri seeking leniency in operating flights for them to return home while some Indians working abroad and got stuck back home during the lockdown also urged the minister to allow them to get back to their countries of residence.