Once restrictions on passenger flights are lifted airports will facilitate limited domestic and international scheduled flights in phases and may be at 30% capacity to facilitate social distancing, the Airport Authority of India has stated in a set of guidelines for resumption of service post-lockdown.
Flight operations to its original level are likely to be scaled up in a gradual manner, according to the government’s plan. Airline operations are likely to begin in tier-I cities first, it added.
“Initially it is presumed that airline operations will be limited to Tier-I cities i.e. Metros and some of the state capitals and major Tier-II cities. The flights schedule may be cleared on City Pair basis, so the origin and Destination Airports are open fully from lockdown situation,” according to the standard operating procedure for recommencement of operations at AAI Airports post lockdown.
At airports with more than one terminal, initially only one terminal shall be used and the larger terminal can be scaled down to reduce cleaning area considering limited availability of material resources, the SOP stated.
“Immediately after the lockdown is lifted, or as per government directives in this direction, the scheduled flight operations will commence. Hence, all airports are required to be in preparedness to handle flight operations,” it added.
Strict social distancing norms will be introduced inside the planes to ensure space between two passengers, Hindustan Times had reported on April 9. According to the SOP, passenger seating arrangement shall be done in such a manner so as to maintain social distancing (1- 1.5 m) among passengers using the chairs.
“Sufficient staff shall be deployed near washrooms, X-Ray machines, conveyor belts etc. to guide passengers to maintain sufficient distance,” it said. Alternate check-in counters may also be introduced to avoid congestion.
“Queue at counters shall be managed by airlines staff to manage sufficient distance among passengers. Also, Check-In counters may be opened well in advance to stagger the crowd,” it said. Social distancing (1-1.5 meter) markings and stickers will be provided at airports.
Based on social distancing norms, airports will work out terminal building capacity and forward it to AAI so that the slot allocation for the planned scheduled flights post Covid- 19 lockdown by airline operators can be done accordingly.
Food and Beverage Services and retail outlets will be limited to passengers till operations of airlines gradually increase. “Initially, they should serve tea/coffee etc. with take away snacks in boxes. As part of this limited restaurant facilities to be permitted inside security hold area,” it said.
India has suspended international flights since March 22 while domestic flights were prohibited from March 25. The current lockdown period is scheduled till May 3 for now.
There will be a need for coordination with the respective state governments and local administration to ensure availability of proper public transport and private taxies for passengers and airline staff to reach airports. “Also, coordinate with the respective local administration to ensure that petrol and diesel is adequately available for sustaining operations at airports,” it noted.
Initially, watch hours will also continue to be limited. “However, the watch hours will be restored to original pre-Covid-19 timings gradually once normalcy is restored,” the SOP stated.
“Airlines are required to file their schedule with the DGCA and simultaneously apply for slots at CHQ for approval well in advance to operate within the limited watch hours to be made available at airports, as initially the Summer 2020 schedule cannot be fully implemented. The slots will be provided for ensuring staggered operation based on capacity restriction of terminal buildings to facilitate required social distancing,” the SOP said.
Recommencement of international flights should be also done in a similar coordinated manner, it added.