Sanitisers to ticket price: 10 changes to note when India resumes flights

Travellers must have Aarogya Setu, the government's coronavirus tracing app, said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on May 15.
Passengers will probably take longer to board flights next week when India resumes domestic flights after almost three months.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday his ministry will issue standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Here is what is going to change for passengers as they fly in the time of coronavirus.

Travellers must have Aarogya Setu, the government's coronavirus tracing app, said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on May 15. Face masks and hand sanitisers will be compulsory. Hand sanitiser containers of up to 350ml will be allowed in hand baggage.

Puri has said it is not viable to keep the middle seat vacant as it will lead to hike in the ticket price and prescribed social distancing norms would still not be met. The airlines will have to invest in personal protective equipment like suit, gloves and masks for passengers and crew.

The government is considering temporarily setting caps and floors on airfares once air transport resumes after the lockdown, in a bid to “protect both consumers and airlines”, officials aware of the matter said.

Airlines estimate they would have to increase average fares by anything between 50-100 per cent to break even. CAPA, an international aviation consultancy firm, has estimated that on the Delhi-Mumbai route, a flight ticket must sell at Rs 9,700 if an airline wants to meet the costs for meeting norms on social distancing and empty seats.

"We are looking at some basic measures that could be taken relating to capping prices of airline tickets, but those will be comfortable," said Puri.

According to the draft SOP, passengers should be advised to familiarise themselves with the new procedures at the airport, especially about social distancing norms and ensuring minimum touching of various surfaces.

They should also be familiar with baggage limitations, Covid-19 questionnaire, need to register on the Aarogya Setu app, possibly slower processes at airports and use of authorised taxis to reach the airport, it said.

The ministry has proposed that passengers should reach the airport at least two hours before a flight and do away with passenger identity checks at airport entry gates to minimise rush at the entry points.

Passengers can do web check-in and carrying cabin baggage should not be allowed in the initial phase of operations, as per the document.

Further, the ministry has suggested that passengers denied travel due to high temperature or age should be permitted to change their date of travel without penalty, and airlines would have to maintain their records.

IndiGo, India's largest airline, will fill its airport buses at 50 per cent capacity when service resumes. The airline will also discontinue on-board meal services, CEO Ronojoy Dutta told employees in April. The airline planned to frequently deep clean its aircraft in order to keep crew and passengers safe.

Delhi airport has prepared floor-marked passenger areas on the kerbside and in-terminal to ensure social distancing. The airport will also appoint queue managers to ensure six feet distance between travellers, reported Quartz India. Mumbai airport plans to implement similar norms, too.

Taxis at Kerala’s Cochin International Airport will have a fibre-glass partition between the driver and passengers. The driver will provide a sanitiser to passengers before the journey. Only two passengers, to be seated at the rear, will be permitted. The Kochi district administration has also asked drivers to adopt online money transactions, reported Quartz India.

Air Canada planned no-contact infrared temperature screenings for all passengers from May 15, reported last week. Any flier with a fever—a temperature of 99.5 degrees or higher—will not be allowed to board. Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Emirates and Delta are among airlines that have made masks or face covering compulsory for passengers and crew.

In-flight magazines will probably vanish as airlines resume service--that’s one of the 70 predictions made by SimpliFlying, an airline marketing strategy firm. Bags may pass through “fogging, electrostatic or UV-disinfection” and passengers through thermal scanners and disinfection tunnel, said Forbes quoting a SimpliFlying press release.

Aeroplanes will undergo deep clean after every flight, putting pressure on turnaround times. There may be janitors on planes whose job is to make sure the cabin is kept clean, said Forbes.

Airlines have suffered huge losses in the lockdown—some estimates say that the number could be as high as $1.75 billion in the first quarter of FY21. The result will be that the Indian aviation business will shrink, as some airlines shut down and others merge. 

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