Want to fly after this lockdown? Get a doctor’s certificate

New Delhi | Mumbai: An appointment with the doctor may soon become mandatory for you or your family members to board a flight after the lifting of the lockdown and resumption of normal life, which is expected sometime in June. You may also have to buy gloves, face masks and disposable caps for your next flight. Sounds surreal? Not really!

A technical committee comprising doctors, bureaucrats and airport and airline officials will soon discuss these and other measures to ensure passenger safety midair after normal life resumes. It is formulating standard operating procedures (SOP) for passengers and flight staff and will soon come out with its recommendations.

Airlines in India and abroad are reassessing pricing and passenger safety issues as they try to recover from the worst slump in aviation history. The ongoing lockdown is unlikely to be fully lifted across the country before June, but airlines have started evaluating measures that they may have to take once normal flight operations resume.

Some global airlines like budget carrier EasyJet are planning to keep the middle seats empty, at least initially, to reassure passengers, while flight crew at Korean Air Lines are wearing full protective gear including goggles, face masks and gowns etc.


Middle Seat Booking may be Allowed

Some airlines are also evaluating higher fares amid fears that short-haul routes would disappear. Health checkups, temperature checkups are likely to become common, according to a Bloomberg report dated April 24.

The technical committee in India, however, may allow airlines to book passengers on middle seats. “Keeping the middle seat vacant will not help achieve the 6 feet social distancing norm between two people as it allows only two feet space between two passengers. Hence the focus now is on mandating protective gear and certificates to ensure safe and coronavirus-free flights,” said a senior official, who did not want to be identified.

A spokesperson at GoAir declined to comment while spokespersons of IndiGo and Vistara said plans were being discussed.

Airlines in India had objected to the government demand to keep middle seats vacant before the lockdown. “The safe flight occupancy in keeping with the new normal of social distancing is no more than 33%. Leaving the middle seats empty is an absolutely non-starter. The economics just do not work,” a airline executive said.

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