Domestic flights set to take off after 2-months! Here’s what airlines are doing to ensure safe travel

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Published: May 22, 2020 1:14:29 PM

The guidelines list down the measures to be taken by the airlines at the time of check-in, boarding and arrival, as well as those needed to be taken on-board.

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Domestic flights to resume: Union Ministry of Civil Aviation on Thursday issued operating guidelines for airlines ahead of the scheduled recommencement of domestic flying operations from May 25. Issuing the guidelines, the ministry stated that the airlines would need to make all the arrangements to ensure that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is minimised. For this, the guidelines stated, the airlines would be required to ensure that other service providers like airports, ground handling agencies and security agencies coordinate properly.

The guidelines list down the measures to be taken by the airlines at the time of check-in, boarding and arrival, as well as those needed to be taken on-board.

Domestic flights recommence: Measures to be taken by airlines

Before departure

  • Airlines would be required to inform passengers about the precautionary measures they need to take. This would need to be done via the airlines’ websites, call centres, travel agents, airport displays and assistant booths set up at the airports.
  • The staff and ground handlers need to be trained by the airlines regarding the various measures to be taken.
  • All aircrafts must be sanitized after each trip and at the end of the day.
  • They should undertake measures to educate their travellers about the web check-in process and an alternative must be provided for those who do not own a computer. Airlines shall also provide the facility of tele check-in. Passengers must also be informed by the airlines that following the web or tele check-in procedure will be mandatory.
  • Airlines must come up with a system to ensure that web or tele check-in facility is only available to those passengers who have certified the status of their health.
  • The airlines would be required to keep a record of the passengers’ self-declarations so that they can be provided to the Centre or state governments if needed.
  • The guidelines further state that the check-in baggage should not exceed 20 kgs and beyond this, airlines can charge an extra amount.

Guidelines for airlines regarding arrival of passengers

  • Adequate protective gear must be provided to the staff and it should be ensured that they are adequately trained regarding protective measures.
  • Sufficient staff members should be deployed at the entry of the airport for the assistance of the passengers.
  • Airlines must permit passengers who are denied travel due to high temperature or age to reschedule their flight to another date without being charged a penalty. This record must be maintained by the airlines.
  • For those passengers who need special assistance, like those who are bound to wheelchairs or unaccompanied minors, the handling staff must be in full protective gear and wheelchairs must be pre-sanitized.
  • There should be sufficient number of counters for convenient baggage drop by passengers.
  • All frontline staff must mandatorily wear protective gear, while counter staff must maintain a safe distance while accepting baggage.
  • Passengers must be released after baggage drop or check-in for security screening in restricted numbers to ensure social distancing.

Measures to be taken while boarding

  • Airlines must ensure that announcements educating travellers are made in the waiting area.
  • Boarding must commence an hour before scheduled time of departure and boarding gates should be closed 20 minutes before departure.
  • Each passenger must be checked for temperature before boarding and symptomatic passengers should be denied travel.
  • Airlines must practice staggered sequential boarding in batches of 10.
  • No passenger should be allowed to board without a face mask.
  • If airlines use a bus to facilitate the boarding, they must ensure that the buses are not crowded and are sanitised regularly.
  • It should be ensured that step ladders are not crowded and the grab rails of these ladders should be continuously sanitized.

On-board precautions to be taken by airlines

  • Cabin crew must wear PPE, including full body suit, show cover, masks and gloves.
  • Hand baggage should be restricted as much as possible and stowage bins must be closed as soon as they are full so that there is no unnecessary physical contact with the luggage. Oversized or excess cabin baggage should be offloaded and sent to Cargo hold as soon as possible.
  • Safety protocols regarding COVID-19 must be regularly announced.
  • Once arrived at the destination, the passengers must be guided to exit sequentially to avoid bunching.
  • Lavatories in the aircraft must be cleaned or sanitized every hour in the flight and it must be sprayed with a disinfecting solution regularly.
  • Seat pockets must be cleared of all items, except for the safety card which must be sanitized or replaced after every flight.

Other guidelines for airlines during COVID-19 pandemic

Apart from the above guidelines, the airlines must also follow these general instructions.

  • Health check up of all crew must be conducted by the airlines regularly.
  • To the extent possible, the airline must roster the same set of cabin and cockpit crew together so that chances of cross-contamination are reduced.
  • Airlines must lay down rules for the entry of cockpit crew into the cockpit before departure and exit post arrival so that their exposure to and contact with passengers is minimal.
  • In case any crew or staff member comes in contact with a COVID-19 patient or is exposed to possible infection, the APHO at the airport must be contacted. Frequently touched surfaces must be cleaned and sanitized after every flight.
  • Airlines must also have proper procedure in place for sanitization of transit flights having passengers for the onward destination. Appropriate air conditioning must be provided in the carrier.
  • In the case of an on-board medical emergency related to coronavirus, the disinfection of the aircraft must be carried out with special attention to those seats which were affected.

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