Domestic flights resume: Guidelines passengers must follow at the airports

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Domestic flights recommence: Centre releases guidelines for passengers at airports! Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday announced that the domestic flights will be resumed from May 25, after all civil flights had been grounded in view of the coronavirus pandemic two months ago. Accordingly, the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation on Thursday released detailed guidelines for the airports, passengers and major stakeholders, so that necessary precautions can be taken to avoid the spread of coronavirus due to the resumption of operations.

The ministry, while releasing the guidelines, stated that they have consulted experts as well as stakeholders before formulating the guidelines.

Domestic flights to resume: Detailed guidelines by Centre

The detailed guidelines by the ministry include some general instructions.

  • Initially, only 33.33% of the operations would be allowed, and further operations would be expanded in a calibrated manner.
  • The guidelines advise elderly persons, pregnant ladies, and passengers with health issues to avoid air travel.
  • The airports have been directed not to conduct physical check-ins at counters. Only passengers with web check-in will be able to enter the airports.
  • Till the time the COVID-19 pandemic lasts, the airlines will have to adhere to the floor and ceiling limits issued by the ministry.
  • The passengers will also be required to give a self declaration or their Aarogya Setu status for compatible devices, stating that they are free of COVID-19. Those who have been classified as ‘red’ in the Aarogya Setu app will not be allowed to travel.
  • Wearing of protective gear, i.e., face masks will be mandatory for passengers.
  • No meals shall be provided by the airlines on board.
  • The guidelines have further instructed cabin crew to be in full protective suits.
  • Each passenger shall be allowed to carry only one check-in bag.
  • Airlines will not be allowed to provide magazines or newspapers to passengers on board.
  • Use of baggage trolleys will have to be minimised.
  • Passengers would be required to report at the airport at least two hours prior to the departure time.

Domestic flights: Instructions for passengers

Detailed guidelines have been issued for the passengers, having instructions the passengers need to follow from the point of origin to the airport and at the airport.

From the point of origin to the airport

  • The passengers have been advised to familiarise themselves with all the new procedures, including the norms regarding social distancing, baggage limitations, declaration regarding COVID-19, minimal touch, Aarogya Setu app, use of authorised taxis and digital payments. They have also been told to expect the processes to be slowed down and hence avoid reaching the airport at the last minute. The advised time to report is at least two hours before departure.
  • Passengers must remember to check-in over the web and download their boarding pass and baggage identification number or baggage tag.
  • Initially, passengers will only be allowed to have one carry-on and one check-in baggage, the specifications of which would be given by the airline of travel.
  • Passengers must wear the protective equipment before entering the terminal and should continue to wear the face mask for the entire journey.
  • The traveller has been advised to either travel in their personal vehicle or authorised taxis as per the Ministry of Home Affairs’ norms.
  • Passengers must ensure that they take all necessary precautions during their journey to the airport to prevent infection.
  • Passengers staying in containment zones shall not travel. Moreover, those who have been tested positive for COVID-19 will also not be allowed to travel. They must certify the status of their health through a self-declaration form or through the Aarogya Setu app.
  • Penal action will be taken against a passenger who is not permitted to fly and yet undertakes the journey.
  • Airlines would be required to ensure that boarding passes are issued only after the passengers have submitted the self-declaration form in the prescribed manner. If a PNR has more than one passenger, it would be deemed that the declaration covers all the passengers in that PNR.
  • The baggage tag will be required to be affixed by the passenger at a prominent place. If the passenger is not able to print the baggage tag, he/she must write the PNR and the name of the passenger in bold on a thick paper and affix it to the bag or tag it to the bag using a strong string.
  • It is advised that minimum baggage is carried as the use of trolleys will be allowed sparingly.

At the airport

  • The passenger must deboard his personal vehicle or taxi wearing the face mask, which he shall wear for the remainder of his journey, and he must have his documents/e-documents.
  • The travellers would have to walk in the forecourt area and arrive at the thermal screening facility placed near the entry gate.
  • He/she should get checked for temperature, which will be done by the designated staff at the airport. The staff must be shown the passenger’s Aarogya Setu status.
  • If the Aarogya Setu app is unavailable to a passenger, he shall be facilitated to a counter set up at the airport where the app can be downloaded. This rule is exempted for children below 14 years of age.
  • After this, the passenger will move to the entry checkpoint, where the CISF counter is set up. The CISF staff will check the identity card and boarding pass/e-boarding pass and after confirming the identity, allow the passenger to enter.
  • After this, the passenger will move to the baggage drop counter, where he/she will display the PNR and identity proof to the staff. They will also be required to show the PNR number written or printed on their baggage to the staff. Once confirmed, the staff will print the baggage tag and attach it to the check-in bag and accept it. The passenger will receive an SMS confirming the receipt of the baggage.
  • Passengers have been advised to stick to the baggage limit and the social distancing norms. The latter will be indicated at the airport with the help of markings like circles, squares or tensor barriers.
  • The travellers must complete the check-in and baggage drop procedure at least an hour before the scheduled departure time.
  • The passengers will be guided to the security screening before the embarkation with the help of arrangements made at the airport. They are required to follow the instructions announced by the authorities.
  • At the screening, they would be required to remove all metal on their body, and only have one carry on baggage.
  • The security staff will follow the ‘minimum touch’ concept and reduce physical contact with the travellers, who are directed to cooperate with the staff by following their instructions.
  • Once the screening is done, passengers shall move to the security hold area, where they are required to follow social distancing and sanitization protocols. Passengers must not occupy the chairs marked ‘not for use’.
  • While in a food court or at retail outlets, travellers must be aware of social distancing and maintain hygiene and should also make sure to be aware of the locations where sanitizers would be available.
  • Bio-hazardous waste like used gloves, masks and tissues should be disposed of by the passengers in yellow disposable bags/bins placed at strategic locations throughout the airport.
  • Communication material displayed at the airports detailing various health advisories regarding pre-boarding and on-flight precautions must be checked by the travellers.
  • The travellers must make sure that they collect the safety kits containing three-layered face masks, face shield and sanitizer from the airlines near the boarding gate. They must wear the shield and the mask and sanitize their hands before proceeding to the gate for boarding pass scanning.
  • Announcements should be heard and travellers must form the boarding queue while following social distancing.
  • The passenger would scan the e-boarding pass themself for the check-in of the boarding pass. However, they would have to show their ID to the airline staff at the gate.
  • The boarding shall take place in a sequential manner which must be followed by the passengers.

Format of COVID-19 self-declaration form for domestic flight passengers

The guidelines issued by the Centre contain the format of the declaration form to be submitted by the passengers. The declaration should confirm the following points:

  • The passenger is not residing in a containment zone.
  • The passenger is not suffering from fever, cough, or any respiratory distress.
  • The passenger is not under quarantine.
  • If the passenger develops any symptom, he shall contact the health authorities immediately.
  • The passenger has not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two months.
  • The passenger is eligible to undertake air travel as per the extant norms.
  • The passenger will make his contact details/ mobile number available to the airlines whenever required.
  • The passenger understands that if he undertakes the travel without meeting the eligibility criteria, he would be liable for penal action.
  • The passenger undertakes to adhere to the health protocol issued by the destination state/UT.

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