No Quarantine After Flying: Domestic Flights Might Resume on May 25, But Air Travel Has Changed Forever

Coronavirus

No Quarantine After Flying: Domestic Flights Might Resume on May 25, But Air Travel Has Changed Forever

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The Civil Aviation Ministry has announced that a third of all domestic flights would start operating by next Monday — May 25 — two months after the country was put under a nationwide lockdown. But, in a series of guidelines issued on Thursday, it has indicated what several experts had already suspected — that air travel is likely to change post the coronavirus pandemic.

For starters, apart from making masks and gloves compulsory for all travellers, the new guidelines mandate that all passengers report to the airport at least two hours in advance, to give authorities time to screen each one.

Passengers must also not live in a containment zone, or show any symptoms, and will also have to download the contentious Aarogya Setu app before being allowed to travel. If the badge on the app doesn’t flash green, you won’t be allowed in. Pregnant women as well as the elderly have been advised to avoid travel for now.

Once you enter, sanitiser will be made freely available, some of which will also be applied on all luggage. Even shoes will be disinfected with the help of mats soaked in bleach at the entrance.

All airport employees, who usually interact with thousands of passengers a day, are mandated to use PPE, while social distancing will be enforced in check-in queues. The use of trolleys has been discouraged to prevent any unnecessary spread.

On the flight itself, passengers will be seated according to social distancing norms, so prepare to see several seats taped off, and marked with “do not sit” signs. There will also be no food allowed on the flight, as well as no in-flight newspapers or magazines.

On the flight, passengers will be seated according to social distancing norms.

The guidelines also advise travellers to use the toilet judiciously, and say no queuing will be allowed outside lavatories to avoid crowding. For the same reason, passengers will be asked to board and deplane the flights sequentially.

Upon arrival, there will be no gathering around the baggage collection carousel either, with circles or squares now marking out where passengers are allowed to stand. The airports will, meanwhile, disinfect every terminal with fogging and spraying machines at regular intervals.

It’s been over 50 days since passengers were last allowed to go to an airport, but as these guidelines indicate, it may be a lot longer before things go back to the way they used to be.

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