All domestic passenger flight operations will resume on Monday, May 25th “in a calibrated manner”. The flights had been suspended for the 54-day lockdown period that began on March 25. However, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights and special flights approved by the aviation regulator DGCA were allowed to operate.
The development comes despite some state governments, including West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, had expressed concern at resuming flight operations during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers. In addition to this, certain state governments have been apprehensive of allowing people from locations highly impacted by Covid-19 to enter their borders.
A number of new rules and regulations are expected to be put into place that will change the flying experience. These include mandatory social distancing at airports, revisions in the way security procedures are conducted to ensure minimal contact, use of face masks and personal protective equipment by passengers and employees, among others. A variety of new health checks may also be instituted that could result in longer queues at airports and increased wait times.
Earlier this month, in a communication to airport managers across the country, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) asked all airports to be in preparedness to handle flight operations.
Issuing a set of standard operating procedures, AAI’s directorate of operations said: “Once the lockdown period is declared to be over, airports shall be facilitating limited domestic/international scheduled flights in phases, to start with, may be at 30 per cent capacity to facilitate required social distancing”. It added initially, airline operations may be limited to Tier-l cities and major Tier-ll cities.
The Centre is looking at the option of making the Aarogya Setu app mandatory for flyers to have it installed on their phones while taking any flight. “If the proposal is approved in the Aviation ministry, passengers who do not have the app on their phone would not be allowed to board their flight,” PTI quoted an official as saying.