New passenger regulations as India plans on restoring domestic flights from Monday
It has been reported by media outlets that, two months after a lockdown to curb the spread of Coronavirus, India is set to restart domestic flights on Monday.
On the 25th of March 2020, India issued strict stay-at-home rules to a population of more than a billion, effectively closing its businesses and it’s £2.3 trillion economy. One of the early countries to impose heavy travel restrictions when the lockdown began, India suspended most visas, ceased both international and domestic flights and halted all internal train journeys.
Minister of Civil Aviation of India, Hardeep Puri said all airports and airlines had been told to prepare for operations. The choice as to which routes will be operational has been left up to India's individual state governments. However, several states had expressed concerns over resuming flights as cities like Delhi and Mumbai are still seeing a rise in infections and are therefore designated as red zones.
The new rules are designed to reduce the chance of passengers and airport workers being infected by Covid-19 and hand sanitisers and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) will be provided for staff. Passengers should arrive at the airport two hours before their scheduled flight time and are only allowed to use designated taxi services and private vehicles to get there. Mats and carpets soaked with a bleach will be placed at terminal entrances to disinfect footwear and baggage will be sanitised before flyers are allowed to enter.
Inside the terminal, passengers are required to wear masks and gloves, must undergo thermal screening and show airport officials that they are marked as ‘SAFE’ on Aarogya Setu, India's Coronavirus contact tracing app. To maintain social distancing, seats in waiting areas that cannot be used will be taped off or marked as such and the use of luggage trolleys will be discouraged.
In preparation for flights to resume, Delhi International Airport Limited (Dial), the company which operates the airport in the capital, has implemented unique ultraviolet (UV) tunnels to disinfect checkpoint trays and baggage and mobile UV towers to disinfect surfaces in terminal areas and handheld UV devices.
With regard to keeping the middle seats empty on the aircraft to maintain social distancing, Hardeep Puri, Minister of Civil Aviation, told news agency ANI that this was not viable and would lead to a 33% increase in the cost of tickets. He pointed out that even if the middle seat is kept vacant, this still does not satisfy the minimum requirement for effective social distancing.
To maintain social distancing, passengers will be required to get on and off aircraft sequentially and in batches.
Ashish Wastrad, MD & CEO - ACS India, had this to say, “India has been in one of the strictest lockdown situations since 25 March, so the Civil Aviation Ministry’s decision to start domestic flights comes as a great relief to the entire aviation industry.
No doubt we will see a spike in the number of bookings in the coming days. However, we are still not completely out of this pandemic, and far from flattening the curve if you may. So it is imperative that the passengers follow all the safety/social distancing rules as laid out by the government, or we may find ourselves back to square one.
While it may not be feasible to follow social distancing inside the commercial aircraft, we can easily achieve this on private jets.
Our Commercial Jet and Private Jet divisions have been inundated with enquiries and while we did help with quite a few repatriation flights over the last couple of months, there are still a lot of individuals and groups of people stuck in different parts of the country, so thankfully, we will now be able to fly them back home.
Our operators are following the strictest SOP’s for COVID19, including sanitising the aircraft after every flight, providing some PPE equipment onboard, electronic boarding passes, regular symptoms checks for the crew, thermal screening before and after every flight, etc.
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