NEW DELHI: Offering tickets free of cost on flights under the Vande Bharat mission would have further affected the finances of Indian airlines including Air India, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Monday.
The finances of airlines have been hugely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Puri said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented impact on the entire global civil aviation sector. In view of stoppage/restrictions in both domestic/international flights, Air India and other Indian carriers are also in a financially distressed condition."
"If tickets would have been offered free of cost, it would have further affected the finances and viability of Air India and other Indian carriers," the minister noted.
The Central government had started the Vande Bharat mission on May 6 to help stranded people reach their destinations through special international flights on payment basis.
Scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23.
Between May 6 and August 31, a total of 5,817 inbound flights have been operated under the Vande Bharat mission from various countries, Puri said.