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Monday, 16 March, 2020, 10 : 30 AM [IST]

Raft of overseas flights cancelled amid travel restrictions due to pandemic

Indian carriers have been forced to cancel dozens of international flights after the government imposed a ban on most foreigners from entering the country to contain the spread of Covid-19, reports Mint.

Air India Ltd has cancelled several flights between 16 March and 30 April to destinations like Kathmandu, Dubai, Dammam, Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha and Muscat from cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, said an airline official, requesting anonymity.

The national carrier has also cancelled some flights on domestic sectors. Air India has already cancelled flights to Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, Tel Aviv, Rome, Milan, Incheon, Kuwait and Colombo till 30 April.

The official said Air India’s international operations have been adversely affected following the government decision. “The airline will redeploy capacity to (profitable) domestic routes," the official said.

Budget carrier IndiGo has cancelled several flights to West Asia from 17 March.

“Owing to the suspension of visas for all foreigners with exception of diplomatic passport holders, IndiGo will be cancelling some of its flights to Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi w.e.f. March 17, 2020 until the travel restrictions are lifted," IndiGo said in a statement.

The Indian government has barred the entry of foreigners and kept on hold the visa-free facility granted to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders till 15 April, adding to steps to combat Covid-19.

India’s aviation and tourism industry is seeking government assistance to mitigate the financial impact.

In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the Airports Council International has asked the government to cut airport taxes on passengers and waive off concession fees private airport operators are required to pay to the government.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has asked all international airlines operating to and from India to waive off cancellation charges, or offer other incentives, according to a circular issued by the regulator.

Airlines, however, continue to levy cancellation fees on domestic flights.

An IndiGo spokesperson said full refunds are being given only in special cases.

“When we have had to cancel flights due to any government intervention, on account of visa policies or similar, we give our customers full refunds. In common with other LCC (Low Cost Carrier) practice, for domestic flights which we expect to operate (and therefore incur significant costs), we are allowing free changes for all," the spokesperson said.

SpiceJet is also offering free rescheduling of flights but is continuing with cancellation charges for domestic flights. Spokespeople for Air India and GoAir declined to comment. (Source: Mint)

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