After almost two months of grounding, the government of India allowing airline services in the country. It is being informed that both the domestic and international flights are going to resume its run from next week onward. The Indian air services is expected to be resume from Monday next.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued a set of standard operating procedures for passengers, airlines and airports that need to be ensured prior to being able to fly. Alongside specific pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight guidelines, travelling passengers will also need to adhere to health protocols as are prescribed by the destination state or union territory governments, which would determine whether passengers arriving into any destination will have to undergo a quarantine period or not.
According to airline sources, bookings are formally opened for flights that will operate from Monday, on Thursday evening. The Indian government is considering the revival of international flights and standard domestic flights from next week, starting with a small number of flights on a pilot basis.
International and Domestic flights connectivity has remained suspended since March 25 but only rescue flights to bring back stranded Indians from other countries are being operated by Air India under the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission. The only operation that has been allowed throughout the lockdown period is the operation of cargo flights, especially to transport medicines and medical equipment on international routes.
Even as domestic flights are allowed to take off, the central government is in touch with the various state governments for the implementation of quarantine rules. If a passenger is returning to his home from another city, the quarantine at the arrival city will be an one-time affair. However, if someone wants to visit an ailing parent in another city and return back to work, quarantine at both places may lead to loss of several days if state governments at both points insist on a quarantine of one week or more. As of now, there is no clarity on what will be the quarantine rule for domestic passengers in each state and efforts are on to clear this.
To begin with, passengers have been asked to report at least two hours before departure time. It will be mandatory for passengers to wear a face mask, and a self-declaration or safe status on the Aarogya Setu app (for those with compatible devices) will be obtained to ensure that the passenger is free of Covid-19 symptoms. Passengers with “red status” on the app will not be permitted to travel.
While entering the airport terminal building, the passenger will have to undergo thermal screenings. At the airport, no physical check-in at the counters will be allowed. Only those passengers with confirmed web check-in will be allowed to enter the airport. Further, the passenger will also be required to print the baggage tag and affix it on the baggage so it is prominently displayed. Passengers have been advised to carry minimum baggage as use of trolleys only will be permitted sparingly. In addition to this, only one cabin baggage will be allowed to be carried.
If any passenger feels uncomfortable, fatigued or has cough, it should be brought to the notice of the crew. Airlines have been advised to clean and sanitise the lavatories after every one hour of flight and to clear the seat pockets of all items except the safety card, which will be replaced or sanitised after every flight.
However, various countries may impose additional conditions like a recent medical certificate declaring the passenger COVID-19-negative and details of onward travel from the point of arrival. The revival of international flights will also depend on the response from other countries, and while some countries are ready for an early launch of flights to India, others are not. Therefore, officials feel air connectivity to some countries like the US and Canada may be resumed sooner while it may take more time for other destinations.
Regulation of fares at this juncture is another sensitive issue since unusually high fares will invite complaints from passengers. Keeping a tight ceiling on fares would lead to airlines crying foul, especially since they are coming out of a two-month lockdown that has led to huge losses.
Fares may be high as domestic airline service is opening up after a two-month gap and there could be a lot of pending demand, officials said. Also, only one-third of the usual capacity is likely to be deployed in the beginning as the government wants gradual scaling up. Once capacity deployment is stepped up after operations stabilise, then fares will also settle down, officials feel. Fares will become a even more ticklish issue when international airlines start operating flights connecting India.