The Unlock 4.0 and 5.0 stages witnessed a slight increase in the availability of flights in India. While we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, there have been initiatives made by the government to make travel accessible. More so, the idea was to make flights available as a means of transportation, albeit, with several safety measures and regulations in place.
Currently, states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Rajasthan and Goa have opened up for tourism, among others. However, it’s not as straightforward that you can simply book a flight to any state or city, regardless of your reasons for traveling. You are obligated to adhere to certain protocols and guidelines set in place by the government, to ensure safety isn’t compromised. So here’s a detailed guide on how to take flights in India during covid.
Steps Taken By The Airlines To Ensure Safety During The Outbreak
In order to avoid queues, the passengers can go to the portal of the concerned airline to web check-in which can be done anytime between 48 hours to 60 mins before the scheduled departure.
At the boarding gates of the airport, the passengers are provided with safety kits that include a sanitizer and a surgical mask that is three-layered.
Once web check-in is done, it automatically brings you to the page of e-boarding pass which needs to be printed. In case of international flights, you will be provided with a confirmation slip that requires to be exchanged at the airport for your boarding pass.
In order to create a hassle free environment, the airlines now allow the passengers to download their baggage tag (identification number) so that they themselves can print and stick it on their bags at an easily detectable area. In case the baggage tag cannot be printed, the passengers can simply mention their PNR number on a piece of paper and fix that on their bag in such a way that it is not easily torn.
For sanitization purposes and avoiding cross contamination, the flights will no longer have overhead bins. Instead, the cabin bags are now loaded under the seats of the passengers in special boxes.
Guidelines Of Air Travel During Covid-19
Keeping in mind the hygienic and convenience factors of the passengers, there are some changes in regulations that are laid out by the aviation industry that need to be followed by every individual:
Among many of the set guidelines, travelers are urged to use payments that are done digitally and highly recommended to avail taxis that are authorized.
Passengers who come into the category of being vulnerable during the pandemic (like pregnant women, elderly and people with ailments) are all recommended to avoid traveling.
It is mandatory to consent to the self-declaration form and register in the Aarogya Setu app. The app promotes awareness regarding Covid-19 and one of its features includes updating the user about nearby infected areas using the device’s bluetooth and GPS.
Passengers are required to go through thermal screenings and other safety protocols at the entry gate where the Aarogya Setu app is checked if downloaded. In case it isn’t, the passengers are sent to a counter where they are aided by the staff in order to download the app.
To ensure minimum amount of contact, no sale onboard of any kind will be available (like magazine or newspaper). Not even the meal service will be provided. The passengers are prohibited from eating in the aircraft.
Mandated Guidelines In Airport During The Pandemic
Other than the compulsory face masks, disinfecting products like sanitizers and maintaining social distance, there are still other mandated sets of rules that need to be followed once you decide to travel in an aircraft.
Passengers living in an infected area that is under the containment zone are restricted from traveling.
If the passenger has been tested positive for Covid-19, they are prohibited from traveling so that the virus is contained from spreading as much as possible. As a precaution, you can carry your negative Covid-19 test result, provided it is very recent.
All passengers are required to sign the declaration form, consenting to abide by all the guidelines laid by the airlines during the pandemic.
Boarding passes are issued only after the airline confirms the declaration form. Any negligence related to the declaration form can call upon penal action. The declaration under a PNR holding more than one passenger would be considered applicable for all. The form needs to be shown to the health staff at the airport.
In addition to the face mask, the passengers are required to protect themselves by also wearing a face shield throughout the flight.
The passengers are requested to pack light while travelling during the coronavirus outbreak. Only a single bag for check-in and a piece of cabin luggage is allowed.
The procedure of check-in and baggage drop are required to be completed by the passengers minimum an hour prior to the scheduled departure of their flight. 60mins prior to the departure, the boarding of the flight will begin and the boarding will close right 20 mins ahead of departure.
Regulations That Need To Be Followed On Arrival
It is vital to keep in mind that until you are back at your home, you need to keep your guard up and keep following the protocols. Right after the flight lands, do not forget to maintain social distancing and take your time while deboarding.
There are chances of the passengers getting quarantined during screening procedures after landing if they show any symptoms. As per the health protocol, in case the passengers show symptoms they will be escorted to the nearby medical facility to be tested according to ICMR protocols.
Exceptions From Getting Quarantined On Arrival
Few of the states in India do follow a few special case scenarios where the passengers can avoid getting quarantined after landing.
In the southern state of Karnataka, travellers and people on business can find themselves in the category where they can avoid quarantine.
For anyone who travels from any part of the country to either Kerala or Uttar Pradesh for less than a week, they are let off from home quarantine. To opt for this in Kerala, you require an entry pass that ensures your limited visit that can be availed from the Jagratha portal.
Anyone travelling to either Kerala or Jharkhand for less than 3 days are immune to quarantining themselves.
In case you’re planning to visit Tamil Nadu and return from the state within 48 hours, you are relieved from quarantine.
Booking Tickets In Flight During Corona
With a very limited percentage of travelling that is going around during this lockdown period, the availability of flights and trains has been obscure. Any chance of an early booking of seats in a flight, either to get block seats or early booking discounts, has been quashed. The sales of the tickets are expected only closer to the dates of the flights.
Passengers can receive refunds to their cancelled flight tickets in three categories:
Anyone who had booked their ticket between March 25th and May 24th are to receive a full refund with no charges of cancellation fee. They are to receive this refund within 3 weeks no matter how they bought the ticket (like via a travel agent).
The passengers who booked their flight before the quarantine and their ticket was cancelled would receive refund within 15 days. In case the airline is unable to payback due to financial instability, they are to set credit shells for the passengers that are valid till 31st March, 2021. The passenger can use that credit shell to travel any location or transfer it for any other person.
Passengers booking their flight tickets after 24th May would receive refunds according to the provisions that are based on Civil Aviation Requirements.
Extra Precautions That You Can Take
From providing sanitizers at every nook and corner of the airport to the markings across the premises to establish social distancing, the crew and staff members of the aviation industry have been doing their best to make sure one has a safe yet comfortable journey. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still things you can do from your end to make things easier for everyone.
Most of the airlines provide the necessary details online as advisories. They also include when to arrive at the airport before the departure of your flight (the modified time at present being 2 hours before the flight’s departure). At a time of social distancing, do not panic about missing your flight by arriving earlier than necessary. It only causes overcrowding and long queues.
Several chairs in the rest areas are marked under “Not For Use” to ensure social distancing. Bio-hazardous materials like gloves, tissues or masks are to be disposed of in the yellow coloured bins that are systematically placed all across the airport.
Do not forget to carry your own disinfectants onboard. Before you sit remember to wipe your seat and the surfaces surrounding your seat like the armrests, trays etc.
When flying domestically, food is provided only during longer flights as snacks in sealed packaging. However, there are no refreshments like any hot beverages or meals. Therefore, do not forget to pack your own snack.
Unless it is absolutely essential, passengers are requested to abstain from any movements from their seats. If possible, minimize the usage of toilets on board.
As per recommendations of the US Centers for disease control, it is imminent to take off your shoes, put your clothes to wash and shower as soon as you arrive at your travel destination.
No matter the reasons for travelling in such harsh conditions, it is a request to adhere to every procedure and protocols placed by the authorities, no matter how tedious they are. It is best to be a responsible citizen by abstaining from any kind travel in case you show symptoms. Remember that you are not in this alone and you can always ask for help from the staff in case of any queries.