New Delhi: After a two-month hiatus, one-third of the scheduled domestic flights would be flying from Monday.
After the airlines adhere to the government-prescribed limits on airfares categorised in seven bands based on flight duration, even as the Civil Aviation Minister indicated that the ministry was not in favour of quarantining passengers on short-haul flights.
Unveiling a set of detailed pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight guidelines on Thursday, the civil aviation ministry advised people vulnerable like the elderly, pregnant women and passengers battling health issues to avoid air travel till the coronavirus pandemic abates.
However, the government has issued several guidelines which passengers and airport staff will have to follow at airports and during flights.
These are guidelines for domestic flights:
- Reporting time is two hours before departure
- Masks and gloves are compulsory
- Registration with ‘Aarogya Setu’ app compulsory
- Passengers with red status will not be allowed to travel
- Thermal screening before entering terminal
- Only web check-in allowed
- Only one check-in baggage allowed
- Use of trolleys discouraged
- Bags to be sanitised before entering terminal
- Sanitizers will be placed at several locations inside the airports
- Social distancing markings everywhere, boarding in batches
- No meals to be served on board
- No ques at toilets
- Deplaning in batches
- Baggage will be sanitised before being put on conveyor belts
- Protective gear for airport staff
- Social distance markings on arrival gates, step ladders, coaches and ramps
- Use of trolleys discouraged
- Sufficient staff near convoy belts and washrooms to guide passengers in maintaining social distance
Noting that all stakeholders such as airlines, airports have cooperated, Puri said,”operations will start on 1/3 of the approved Summer schedule for domestic routes in a calibrated manner from 25 May 2020 and will be scaled up gradually. After domestic travel has been eased, we will address the issue of international travel depending on the evolving situation.”
Claiming that a lot of “fuss” was being made over quarantine of passengers on domestic flights, Puri “I don’t know why we are making such a fuss on the quarantine issue. This is domestic travel. Same laws will apply here that applies when you travel by train or a bus… People who are positive will not be allowed to board the flights.”
“If I go to Kerala, will I be put under quarantine for 14 days? Then on my return, will I be put under quarantine again for 14 days? This is not practical,” he added.
He also asserted that the larger question of quarantining would have to be tackled in a “pragmatic manner”.
The minister said social distancing norms will not be implemented even if middle seats are kept vacant on flights. “Therefore, we have decided not to keep middle seats vacant,” he said.
7 Fare Bands For Domestic Flights; Ticket Prices Between Rs 2,000-18,600
Puri said all the air travel routes have been divided into seven bands based on the duration of flights ranging from 40 minutes to 210 minutes. The aim of the exercise is to prescribe upper and lower limits of fares and the caps on fares would be in place till August 24.
Later, DGCA issued the government-decided fare limits for these bands –domestic flights
- With less than 40-minute duration to have lower and upper limit of Rs 2000 and Rs 6000
- For 40-60 minutes Rs 2,500 and Rs 7,500
- For 60-90 minutes Rs 3,000 and Rs 9,000
- For 90-120 minutes Rs 3,500 and Rs 10,000
- For 120-150 minutes Rs 4500 and Rs 13000
- For 150-180 minutes Rs 5500 and Rs 15700.
Flights with duration between 180-210 mins, like ones on Delhi-Coimbatore route, to have lower and upper limit of Rs 6500 and Rs 18600, the Directorate General of Civil Aviationsaid in its circular.
While aviation consultancy, CAPA’s CEO and Director for South Asia Kapil Kaul welcomed the partial and calibrated resumption of flight services, he said the limit on fares is a “bad and unfortunate decision”
“This decision will hurt airlines more than helping (them)… Interfering in pricing which is most strategic to airlines is taken based on a wrong advice,” he said.
India was one of the first countries to impose stringent travel restrictions, including banning all international passenger flightson March 25 as the country was put under a lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The minister also asserted that the lockdown has been effective and that India’s coronavirus-related fatality figures are one of the lowest in the world.
As per the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs), all passengers will have to do web check-in as physical check-in counters at airports will not be functional.
The rules include no meals on board, mandatory temperature checks for all passengers and allowing only one check-in bag for each passenger. People who were tested positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel. All the passengers will have to wear masks while entering the airports and thereafter.
Passengers will have to report to airports two hours before flights are scheduled to depart and they will have to strictly follow social distancing rules.
The government’s decision to allow domestic air travel comes days after the government relaxed norms allowing economic activities to resume in a bid to revive the economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown.
Aviation Secretary P S Kharola said 40 percent of seats in any flight would have to be sold at the mid-point of the lower and upper limits of air fares.
The minister said he can’t comment right now on when the flight operations would be restored completely, and added that only one-third flights will be permitted to operate from metro to non-metro cities where weekly departures are more than 100.
“The passengers are expected to certify the status of their health through the Aarogya Setu app or a self-declaration form,” said the ministry.
Airports have been advised to earmark areas for isolation as well as to carry out COVID-19 testing of suspected passengers.
According to the guidelines, the airports will have to ensure easy availability of hand sanitisers at all entry points and at various touch points.
The ministry also allowed resumption of services by all food and beverages (F&B) outlets on the condition that they must follow all COVID-19 precautions.
“Take-away, digital payments, self-ordering booths at F&B and retail outlets to be encouraged to prevent crowding of people,” it said.