Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from May 25 (Monday), Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced on Twitter.
“All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from May 25. Standard operating procedures for passenger movement are also being separately issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation,” he added.
Domestic flights have been suspended in India since March 25 after the nationwide lockdown was announced, which resulted in the grounding of over 650 aircraft.
Bookings are expected to start tomorrow for the flights starting May 25. It is expected that all airports will remain operational but the number of flights will be reduced substantially on a route temporarily by as much as two-thirds, officials said.
Airports and airlines are yet to receive the final standard operating procedure regarding resumption of flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.“Right now we are engaging with the airlines and airports to finalise the plan,” a senior official said.
The civil aviation minister will hold a press conference on May 21 and more details are expected on the matter from the presser.
As of now, the draft standard operating procedure, which was circulated among airlines and airports had proposed several steps to ensure social distancing including disposable personal protection equipments or PPEs for passengers, minimum touchpoints between passengers and staff, reporting at the terminal minimum two hours prior to departure, mandatory green status on Aarogya Setu app for travel.
Airports have also been asked to ensure distance markings and sanitisers at various checkpoints. Recently, the government also suspended the stamping of boarding passes and passengers can also carry a 350-ml liquid hand sanitizer bottle in their cabin baggage.
“We welcome the government’s decision to recommence domestic civil aviation operations from May 25. This resumption will go a long way in lifting the overall economic sentiment in the country. While the SOP for resumption of operations and details of flights to be operated is still awaited, we are sure that this much-awaited move will help a large number of passengers by providing them access to the safest and quickest means of transport,” Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet, said.
Singh said SpiceJet will “strictly adhere to social distancing norms and SOPs laid down by the government to ensure the best, the cleanest and the most sanitised flying experience.”
Airlines have been the worst hit from the pandemic, with experts worrying that the hit will continue even after the lockdown is lift — as people may change their habits and fly only if essential.
Globally, a number of airlines have declared bankruptcy. Recently, investor Warren Buffett said his Berkshire Hathaway had sold all its shares in airline companies, adding that “the world had changed for airlines”