Main guidelines for domestic flights: People in containment zone not allowed air travel
India will allow resumption of domestic passenger flight operations in a calibrated manner, exactly two months after suspending them under the national lockdown norms
As domestic flight services resume on May 25 with one-third of capacity, it will not allow people staying in containment zones to board a flight as they will not be eligible for travel.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Thursday came up with a detailed guideline for the airlines and passengers, where it said passengers would have to certify their status in terms of coronavirus infection through the Aarogya Setu app or a self-declaration form.
"The passenger shall not travel if he/she is staying in a containment zone. Also,they should not travel if they have been tested positive for COVID-l9. The passengers are expected to certify the status of their health through the Aarogya Setu app or a self-declaration form," it said.
If a passenger, who is not permitted to fly, undertakes an air joumey, he or she shall be liable for penal action, as per the guidelines.
Further, passengers will have to wear protective gear, or a face mask before entering the terminal as per the prevailing requirement and he/she will continue to wear the mask throughout the joumey.
During transit to airport, the passenger should take all precautions to prevent infection.
In the initial stage passenger would be entitled to carry maximum of one hand baggage and one checked-in baggage as per the specifications by the airline of his travel.
The ministry also said that limited passenger flight operations of about one-third of capacity would be permitted to operate on May 25.
In a general set of guidelines for passengers and stakeholders issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Centre said: "On the day of commencement, limited operations (about l/3rd) would be permitted."
"Further augmentation of flights will be done in a calibrated manner."
The guidelines advised "Vulnerable" persons, such as very elderly, pregnant ladies, passengers with health issues to avoid air travel.
Furthermore, it detailed that no physical check-in counters would be allowed at the airport.
"Only those passengers with confirmed web check-in shall be allowed to enter the airport," it said.
Besides, the Centre advised the airlines to adhere to the lower and upper limits of fares prescribed by the Ministry during the period of COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidelines comes a day after Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday said: "Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday, 25th May 2020."
Ever since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country on March 25, passenger air services were suspended for both scheduled domestic and international flights.
In a press conference on Wednesday the civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, that passengers who don't have Aarogya Setu app can give self-declaration form and they will not be stopped from boarding flights.
In an important announcement the Union minister said that private carriers will also join Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indians stranded abroad.
Social distancing requirement can not be met even if middle seats in flights are kept vacant, therefore the middle seats will also be filled, the minister added.
40 per cent seats in flights would have to be sold at mid-point of lower and upper air fare limit set for the route.
Saying that the lockdown has been effective and India’s fatality rate has been one of the lowest in the world, the civil aviation minister said that they have decided to resume the domestic operation because all stakeholders like airlines and airports cooperated.
When contacted on Wednesday, many airline executives said they will now swiftly load new ticket bookings itineraries representing the new schedule from May 25 onward on online platforms.
However, this can only happen after the issuance of new route allocation and other SoP norms.
Besides immediate financial relief, the move allows the airlines to keep their staff and aircraft ready for the re-start of operations.
At present, some players have made cargo operations their main revenue stream. Still, fixed cost, especially the employee compensation component alone, has dented their financial positions and stock prices.
Nevertheless, the latest announcement should bring some stability to the companies business continuity plans.
"This resumption will go a long way in lifting the overall economic sentiment in the country," said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet.
Airline major IndiGo in a statement said: "We are fully prepared with safety measures w.r.t. COVID-19 across all our passenger and CarGo interfaces during their journey with us."
"We will share further details and guidelines for passengers, in line with the advisory from the authorities over the next few days."
According to Dhruv Shringi, Co-Founder and CEO, Yatra.com: "While we anticipate change in customer demand and confidence, but are also hopeful that this move will give the much needed economic stimulus to the tourism sector and travel agents."
On his part, Aloke Bajpai, CEO and Co-founder, ixigo said: "It's a positive step much awaited by airlines and the OTAs - we look forward to the detailed SOPs and guidelines."
"The industry now needs to collaborate and focus on advertising all the confidence building measures that will reassure travelers to get back on a plane. Reopening domestic flights will give a big boost to our economy and kickst rt the recovery of the travel industry which was the most affected during the lockdown."
With IANS inputs
Published: 21 May 2020, 5:00 PM