How Indian aviation plans to start up post-lockdown

With COVID-19 restrictions easing around the world and countries trying to bounce back their economy, let’s have a look at how Indian aviation industry is planning its come back.

In India, the government has taken a decision to ease lockdown norms in “Green Zone” districts, but with all the major cities of India and its capital (Delhi) falling in “Red Zone”, most of the aviation industry is at a complete standstill.

Air India Airbus A321 landing at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Photo by Karam Sodhi | AeroNewsX

There has been no official confirmation or a plan as to when the aviation industry will be allowed to take skies again, but the industry is already gearing itself up.

Airport Authority of India (AAI) has said in a statement that it expects that airline operations will be initially limited to Tier-I cities i.e. metros and some of the state capitals and major Tier-II cities. AAI manages over 100 airports in the country. However, airports in the key metro cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad are managed by private companies.

It has issued certain guidelines once operations resume, saying that airports with multiple terminals will have to initially operate only one terminal after the lockdown and use alternating baggage carousels to ensure that social distancing is maintained. It also adds that limited food and beverages and retail outlets should be made available to the passengers till airline operations gradually increases. During the lockdown, Mumbai International Airport has re-carpeted it main runway, which was actually scheduled to take the main runway off action while the airport would remain operational.

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Mumbai (CSMIA) has also laid a set of guidelines as to how it will function once its back into operation.

It plans to maintain social distancing by creating distinctive markings at both its terminals and by maintaining 1.5 metres distance between each passenger. It has also said that its going to be compulsory for passengers to be wearing masks and gloves during the entire journey. With resumptions of operations likely to happen by first week of June at least, the Civil Aviation Ministry has said that it will announce the resumption date 10 days in advance.

India’s largest airline IndiGo has also announced some changes to its flight operations. It plans to fill its busses to only 50% of their capacity and has also announced that it will temporarily stop selling food onboard the aircraft. Furthermore, it will be deep cleaning its aircraft after every flight.

"We have always been very safety conscious. Now we should be very health conscious too. We will deep clean our aircraft more frequently, will discontinue meal services for a brief period and run our coaches at a maximum load of 50 per cent. We will come out with the new set of protocols very soon," said Ronojoy Dutta CEO of IndiGo in statement.

Vistara has also laid down some parameters once it starts its operations. It says that it intends to serve meals on-board all its services except on domestic flights in which the service alterations include a reduction in meal choices. It also said that it would withdraw services such as onboard sales, welcome drink, hot meals and beverages in Premium Economy and Economy cabins, Starbucks coffee, and Turkish towels. It has also decided that water-pouring will be replaced with the distribution of 200ml sealed water bottles on all flights, and cold refreshments will be served to customers in Premium Economy and Economy cabins, including to customers opting for Economy Lite fares. Additionally, to avoid the spread of the virus through touch, Vistara has decided to remove its inflight magazine from all its aircraft.

With all these measures put in place it is to be seen how the airlines would start functioning once they are allowed to. However, until then, the coronavirus crisis continues to impact airlines across the globe significantly.

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