Many of us may have been wondering how flying would feel like when the ban on flying is lifted. Apart from the memes that have been floating around, it seems there will be a whole different paradigm to fly for the time being ahead, that is, till the health bodies give an all-clear to fly just like the old times.
Arindam Majmudar of Business Standard broke a story which talks about the preparation that the Government and bureaucracy are doing to try and ensure that aircraft and airports are not the places where CoVid-19 spreads. Here are some of the measures that are being listed out:
- A phase-wise opening up of the ban, to ensure there is no crowding at the airports.
- Keep middle seats empty on the narrowbody aircraft to ensure social distancing
- Keep the last three rows of the aircraft free to move isolated passengers in case someone is detected with the symptoms of CoVid-19 mid-air.
- Minimise on-board services such as meal and beverage service to reduce close contact between cabin crew and passengers, for instance, by leaving a meal box on a plane beforehand in case of a full-service carrier. Airlines may also encourage people to bring their own food.
- A ban on duty-free sales to ensure crowds don’t form at the airports.
- Two-metre distancing during check-in and security check.
- Boarding only three rows at a time to prevent queues near the boarding gate or on the aerobridge.
- Thermal screening of all the passengers.
While all the measures seem like a lot, and very time-consuming and stringent to implement, many of them are the measures that were implemented, for instance, during the relief flights flown.
Questions, of course, will arise if we have enough space for it or not. For instance, at some of the larger airports such as Delhi and Mumbai, which are always teeming with people, how will the social distancing norms be ensured? Given that the demand is sinking for now, for one, airlines should not be expecting as many passengers as pre-CoVid-19 immediately, and second, I think the check-in times and reporting times will increase to account for the higher compliance required.
Will this lead to fares increasing? Tricky question, I’d imagine. Higher fares will discourage passengers to get out of their homes for one. But lower fares will not make up for the costs of operating the flight. We will see how the airlines walk this tightrope.
Life won’t be back to normal for the travellers right after there is an official end to CoVid-19 in India. It would take a while for demand to come back, and while it does, the experience won’t be the same for sure, for a while ahead. Even when it does, fully expect these scenes walking down the aisle.
Having said that, I’m waiting to get back in the air, when I can. What about you?
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