India takes to skies again, air travel resumes with precautions
Two months after all air travel was suspended in India, amid coronavirus crisis, domestic operations restarted from today, with a number of precautions. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted on Sunday flights are resuming after "a long day of hard negotiations with various state governments". Crew members were seen dressed in PPE suits and passengers, given face masks. Here's everything you must know.
Battered aviation industry got a breather as flights resumed
The nationwide lockdown, enforced to keep a check on coronavirus' spread, adversely affected the aviation industry, much like the other sectors. Most of the nations have restricted international movement of flights, and so did India. However, in the third extension of the lockdown, GoI agreed that limited flights must resume operations. An exhaustive list of what's allowed and what's not was released last week.
25 flights from Mumbai; Bengal to resume operations later
The process, however, was cumbersome. West Bengal, which was ravaged due to Cyclone Amphan, and Maharashtra, which has the most number of coronavirus cases, sought more time to restart operations. At the eleventh hour, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said 25 flights will operate to and from Mumbai. Operations will resume in Andhra Pradesh on May 26 and in Bengal on May 28.
Flights will resume in a limited manner: Puri
A key meeting took place yesterday
Last evening, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola had a meeting with senior airline executives to discuss last-minute modalities, especially those pertaining to state-specific guidelines. At the end of the over one-hour meeting, it was concluded that airlines will publish tailor-made information on their websites, and also tell passengers about other relevant details. As per guidelines, all passengers will be screened.
Flying has changed forever; PPE suits, social distancing spotted everywhere
Visuals from the airport and the flights indicated that flying has changed. In one image, air hostesses were seen in PPE gear, passengers were given face masks, and most of them wore gloves. The ones ferrying wheelchairs also wore protective suits. "I was in Delhi since the Parliament's budget session. Now, I am returning to my state Odisha," BJD MP Anubhav Mohanty told ANI.
Here are some visuals from the spot
Quarantine must in some states, despite Puri saying otherwise
Puri said quarantine is not necessary, but some states objected. Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Odisha and the administration of Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir mandated home or institutional quarantine for passengers. In UP, quarantine isn't mandatory for those staying for less than a week or those who cleared the COVID-19 test earlier.
Bengaluru Airport will elaborately sanitize its premises
The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), which oversees operations in Kempegowda International Airport, came up with strict guidelines to stop transmission. BIAL said taxis will be sanitized and drivers screened before every trip. To ensure contact-less services, able passengers were asked to load luggage into taxis on their own. Only takeaways are permitted, and all outlets will be sanitized every thirty minutes.
Next on Puri's mind: Resumption of international travel
With domestic flights taking off, Puri's next mission is the resumption of international flights. "I can't put a date on it (restarting international flights). But if somebody says can it be done by August or September, my response is why not earlier depending on what is the situation," he said. Currently, the federal government is running international flights to bring Indians stranded abroad, home.