Domestic Air Travel SOPs: 1/3rd Flights to Operate, Cap on Fare

Domestic flight operations will resume in India on 25 May, after a hiatus of more than two months.

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Domestic flight operations will resume in India on 25 May, after a hiatus of more than two months, due to the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri held a press conference at 3 pm on Thursday, 21 May, to share more details about the standard operating procedure for airports, airlines and passengers. These guidelines will be in place till 24 August 2020.

Meanwhile, here's all we know about the resumption of flight services.

Who can travel? Who cannot?

Vulnerable persons such as elderly, pregnant women, those with health issues are advised to avoid air travel.

Do we know to which destinations the flights will operate?

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that initially the flights will be operated in a calibrated manner.

For operations from metro to metro, 1/3rd of the approved number of flights in the summer schedule for 2020.

For flights from metro to non-metro cities, where departure is more than 100 trips, again 1/3rd of the approved summer schedule. By metro cities, the government means: Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Is the Centre capping prices on airline tickets?

Yes. According to the Aviation Ministry, airlines are directed to adhere to lower and upper limit fares prescribed by the government for the COVID-19 pandemic period.

For example, for the densest route Delhi – Mumbai, the lower band is 3,500 and the upper limit is Rs 10,000.

The routes have been divided into seven categories for capping as:

  • Less than 40 minutes: Rs 2,000 (Min) - Rs 6,000 (Max)
  • 40-60 minutes: Rs 2,000 (Min) - Rs 6,000 (Max)
  • 60-90 minutes: Rs 2,500 (Min) - Rs 7,500 (Max)
  • 90-120 minutes: Rs 3,500 (Min) - Rs 10,000 (Max)
  • 120-150 minutes: Rs 4,500 (Min) - Rs 13,000 (Max)
  • 150-180 minutes: Rs 5,500 (Min) - Rs 15,700 (Max)
  • 180-210 minutes: Rs 6,500 (Min) - Rs 18,600 (Max)

Each category will have a upper band and lower band. From this, the Centre mandated that 40 percent of seats should be sold at mid-point between lowest and highest fare.

What are some basic change in rules that I should know about?

  • It is mandatory for all passengers have to wear masks and gloves in the airport, and during air travel
  • Only those passengers with confirmed web check-in will be allowed to enter the airport
  • Passengers will be thermal screened and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the flight
  • Airlines will not provide meal services in flights

Will I have to undergo institutional quarantine if I undertake air travel?

In the press conference on 21 May, Aviation Minister Puri indicated that he was not in favor of institutional quarantine for air passengers. However, the Assam government has said that it will insist on quarantining air passengers, while media reports suggested that Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are also thinking along those lines.

Is it mandatory to have Aarogya Setu application for boarding a flight?

As per the official order, it is mandatory for all passengers above the age of 14 to have Aarogya Setu application.

When and where can I book the flight tickets?

The booking for air tickets started on 20 May, just hours after the Centre's announcement that flight operations will resume.

While you can buy tickets from the individual website of the airlines, portals like MakeMyTrip and EaseMyTrip have also opened bookings.

Is there chances of the flight being cancelled after I make the booking?

Yes, this is a possibility. The Centre has said that in the beginning a limited number of flights will be operated to certain destinations.

There is a chance that flights to your destination may not operate.

I live in Noida and my nearest airport is Delhi. Inter-state/district travel is not allowed. How do I get to the airport?

There is no clarity on this yet.

When the Indian Railways resumed operations, the Centre said that possessing a valid ticket can also act as an e-pass between districts. A similar protocol might be worked out.

Most of the major Indian cities are still in Red Zone. Will these airports open?

In a tweet, Puri said that it was not upto the Centre alone to decide on resuming domestic flights.

“In the spirit of cooperative federalism, the government of states where these flights will take off and land should be ready to allow civil aviation operations,” he said.

States like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu had earlier expressed concerns over resumption of flight services. However, all airports – including those in Red Zones like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad – have been informed to be ready for operations from 25 May.

Will middle seats be left vacant by airlines?

No, the Centre has said that it is "not viable" to keep middle seat vacant.

Doing this will hike up airline ticket by at least 33 percent, the aviation minister said, adding that the brunt will end up being borne by the passengers.

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