Despite no clear indications from the Centre on easing lockdown restrictions after May 3, some flight carriers in India are undertaking several measures to minimise the touchpoints of human contact on board flights post the lockdown period.
Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had on April 19 directed airlines to stop taking bookings post the lockdown. Issuing a circular in this regard, the DGCA said that no decision has been taken to resume passenger flights from May 4 and that airlines should refrain from booking tickets.
Here’s how different air carriers are preparing to resume operations post-lockdown:
Air carrier Vistara has announced temporary service alterations in domestic flights’ premium economy class and economy class, including reduction in meal choices and withdrawal of services like onboard sales, welcome drink, hot meals, beverages, and magazines. Starbucks coffee and Turkish towels will also not be served in business class and premium economy class, the airlines said in a statement.
“Water-pouring will be replaced with a distribution of 200 ml 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,” the statement read.
Services on international flights will also be reviewed accordingly to curtail contact with customers, the airline said.
Vistara also said its cabin crew members will be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and are being given appropriate training on minimising their chances of contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
“They will undergo thermal screenings before the departure and arrival of flights, and will be quarantined/tested if any colleagues or passengers show symptoms of infection or test positive for COVID-19,” the airline stated.
Low-cost carrier Air Asia has also launched a new uniform for its cabin crew with protective gear. A report in Malaysian newspaper The Star said that the new uniforms were launched on April 24 during an Air Asia recovery flight from Bangkok to Manila. Designed by fashion designer Puey Quinones, the new uniforms have been approved by the Philippines’ Department of Health.
However, there is no clarity on whether the new uniform will be worn across all Air Asia flights. Air Asia plans to resume operation in India on May 4.
GoAir has released a number of FAQs on its preparedness to tackle the virus after lockdown. The air carrier has given special importance to cleaning procedures, using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved, hospital-grade disinfectant in the lavatories and an interior cleaner in the cabin. They have now expanded the use of the hospital-grade disinfectant throughout the aircraft, and it will be used for deep cleaning the aircraft.
Besides, each GoAir aircraft will be equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which removes airborne particles. HEPA filters are also used in hospitals to provide patients with clean air wherein they extract more than 99.999 per cent of even the tiniest viruses, including Covid-19.
The air carrier has also launched a training program for their employees and equipped them with disinfectants, sanitisers, gloves and other protective equipment, particularly for those who engage directly with customers.
Facing losses due to lockdown, airlines squeeze salaries of employees
Amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, SpiceJet has said its primary revenue source is drying as no passenger flights have operated for over a month and therefore it will pay part salaries to over 92 per cent of its employees in April. In a statement, the budget carrier said it has decided that there would be no job cuts at this time.
Government-run Air India has cut the salaries of its employees by 10 per cent, GoAir has sent the majority of its employees on leave without pay, AirAsia India has cut the salaries of its senior employees by up to 20 per cent and Vistara has sent its senior employees on leave without pay for up to six days in April.
However, IndiGo decided last week to roll back the pay cuts which were announced earlier for senior staff members for the month of April in deference to the “government’s wishes”.
India has been under a lockdown since March 25 to curb the spread of COVID-19. All commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this period. However, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights and special flights permitted by the aviation regulator DGCA are allowed to operate. SpiceJet on Wednesday brought 14 tonnes of medical supplies from China to India.
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