Coronavirus impact: DGCA asks foreign airlines to provide free cancellation, rescheduling features as cases mount

Mayank Kumar

As the number of coronavirus cases in India is surging leading to travel restrictions, it has started to hurt the Indian aviation industry. Airline companies have a task in their hands to meet their customers’ demand as well as to keep their operations at a manageable level. The government of India has also stepped in to help the air passengers to minimise their losses as Coronavirus has made a mess of their planned vacations or essential travels.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has issued a circular on March 13 advising the international airline companies to waive off cancellation/rebooking or rescheduling charges to support the passengers in these testing circumstances. The DGCA has said that it would be appropriate for the airlines to support customers when flights are being curtailed, cancelled and disrupted across the world.

Domestic airline companies have already waived off rebooking and rescheduling charges but none of them has offered free cancellation service to their customers.

Indian airline companies have cancelled more than 100 flights since the infectious coronavirus has hit the Indian shores. As per official data, foreign airline companies have cancelled 492 flights till the end of the ongoing month since February 2020. The government's announcement that it is banning all visas for travel until April 15  has also added to the woes for the international airline that used to carry foreign passengers into India. The state-owned Air India had cancelled its operations to Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Israel, South Korea and Sri Lanka till April 30.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) in February had estimated a loss of $29.3 billion in revenue for the global aviation sector. The estimation was based on the presumption that the impact of the virus will be limited to the market associated with China. However, as the disease has now developed into a pandemic, the estimated annual revenue loss for global aviation is being pegged between $63 billion and $113 billion.