No cabin baggage, inflight meals in draft rules to reopen air travel

Stakeholders in the aviation business, including airlines and airport operators, have been asked to review the draft, a copy of which has been seen by Hindustan Times, and submit their feedback.
Grounded aircraft stand at Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport during a lockdown implemented due to the coronavirus in New Delhi, India.(Bloomberg)
Grounded aircraft stand at Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport during a lockdown implemented due to the coronavirus in New Delhi, India.(Bloomberg)
Updated on May 13, 2020 03:41 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | ByNeha LM Tripathi

Cabin luggage will be barred and passengers aged above 80 years not allowed on flights when air passengers services, suspended since March 25 because of the Covid-19 lockdown, resume in the country, according to guidelines drafted by the government for the first phase of the restart of commercial flights.

The draft standard operating procedures (SOPs) proposed by the civil aviation ministry for passengers, airlines and airport operators at a meeting on Monday have done away with the rule of keeping the middle seats vacant in compliance with social distancing norms. Passenger ID checks will also be not required so as to minimise the crowds at terminal gates.

Stakeholders in the aviation business,including airlines and airport operators, have been asked to review the draft, a copy of which has been seen by Hindustan Times, and submit their feedback.

“It is clarified that suggestions were sought on a draft discussion paper from airlines and airports. The suggestions have now been received.The final SOP is yet to be issued,” said Rajeev Jain, additional director general at the ministry of civil aviation.

The rules make it compulsory for all passengers to arrive at the airport only after completing their web check-in at home. The reporting time for travellers at the airport is proposed to be increased by two hours. Only passengers whose flights are scheduled to depart in the next six hours will be allowed inside the airports.

Cabin luggage will be disallowed, and only one piece of check-in baggage weighing less than 20kg will be allowed per passenger in the first phase of resumed airline operations.Those aged above 80 will not be allowed on flights. According to the draft SOPs, passengers stopped from boarding a flight because of age or if they are found to be running a high temperature will be permitted to change their travel date without any penalty.

Other things such as road transport have to return to normal before commercial flights are resumed, said Sudhakara Reddy, president of the Air Passengers Association of India (APAI), noting that some states want the lockdown, already twice extended, to be prolonged beyond May 17, when it is due to end. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, spoke of an impending Lockdown 4.

“If domestic air passenger services begin from next week, only a few passengers having personal vehicles will be able to fly as many states have requested that the lockdown be extended, making road transport difficult after landing,” Reddy said. “Only a few destinations will be open for all the stranded ones to fly back to their respective cities.”

A full service airline official said on condition of anonymity: “It is too early to comment on the SOP as it is still being prepared.”

Downloading the Aarogya Setu app will be mandatory for all the passengers. Only those with a “green status” will be allowed to enter the airport.

Airlines have been asked to open check-in counters three hours prior to departure time and close them 60 to 75 minutes prior to departure. Boarding will commence an hour prior to departure time and the gates will close 20 minutes before.

Frisking of passengers has been asked to be minimised and to be carried out only if the door frame metal detector beeps. The draft SOPs also ask the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to not stamp passenger’s boarding pass in this phase.

The airlines have been told to conduct a secondary temperature check at the boarding gate before the passengers enter their flight.

The document also suggests that the same set of crew (pilots and cabin attendants) be rostered on a flight as long as possible to minimise the risk of infection.

Passengers will not be served meals on board. Water will be available in cups and bottles in the galley.

The last three rows of the aircraft will be kept vacant for isolation of any passenger who develops a medical condition. Crew members handling such cases will wear personal protection equipment.An adequate number of PPEs will be available on board to deal with more than one such case.

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Thursday, June 30, 2022