Get ready for some tedious air travel, as govt prepares strict measures to ensure safety at airports

Aircrafts flights

The Civil Aviation Ministry has come out with a draft standard operating procedure (SOP) for commencing commercial passenger services in the country, that will make travelling safer but more tedious.

The passengers will need to show the `green status’ on their Aarogya Setu app, go through temperature checks, do web check-in and fill up a detailed questionnaire, if the draft is approved.

One of the key recommendations is not to allow cabin baggage in the aircraft. The passengers will also have to reach airport at least two hours before the flight departure.

The draft SOP has also mooted having the same set of cabin and cockpit crew as long as possible in order to prevent possible cross contamination, news agency PTI has reported.

Not just for passengers, the draft SOP has suggested measures that could be followed by security agencies as well as airport operators, including doing away with identity card checks at airport entry gates and ensuring social-distancing norms.

Another suggestion is to keep three rows of an aircraft vacant for isolating any passenger who has a medical emergency onboard.

The draft document doesn’t talk about leaving the middle seat of the aircraft vacant for maintaining social-distancing. This is a controversial point, as airlines are not in favour of it, while health standards require such a move. Aviation regulator DGCA had made a suggestion about leaving middle seat vacant, prior to suspension of commercial flight services in March.

“A questionnaire to be circulated to the passenger and filled up by them in advance about their past history related to COVID-19 and quarantine, if any, in last one month. Any passenger who has undergone quarantine in the last one month to be sent for security at the isolated security check unit only,” the draft document noted.

According to the document, passengers should be advised to familiarise themselves about the new procedures at the airport, especially about social-distancing norms and ensuring minimum touching of various surfaces.

They should also be familiar with baggage limitations, the COVID-19 questionnaire, register themselves on Aarogya Setu app, prepare for possibly slower processes at airports and use authorised taxis to reach airport, the draft said.

The Ministry has suggested that passengers denied travel due to high temperature or age should be permitted to change their date of travel without penalty and airlines would have to maintain their records.

Airports should have an isolation zone in the terminal building for passengers showing symptoms and state governments should provide requisite help with medical infrastructure in case an airport does not have an APHO (Airport Health Organisation) set-up, PTI said in its report, quoting the document.

Airports would have to put in place distance markings, disinfecting all common areas such as lifts, escalators, chairs in seating areas, food and beverages and retail outlets. Availability of moveable hand wash cart or alcohol-based hand sanitisers within the terminal should be ensured, the Ministry has proposed.