Social distancing, that's the term world has learned from the coronavirus pandemic that killed thousands of people globally, resulting in a lockdown in many countries, including India. As announced by PM Modi, the lockdown will be in place till May 3 and hence there's a ban on travel.
This travel ban has caused the aviation industry a lot of financial burden and everyone is hoping for the world to be a normal place again. But that's easier said than done. While airlines will resume flight services once the lockdown is over, they are prepping for progressive changes to incorporate new social distancing norms in travelling, till at least, a credible solution to COVID-19 is found.
A few days ago we saw few images from a Spicejet ground bus where some seats were cross marked using a reflective tape so that people maintain a relevant distance even when traveling from terminal to aircraft.
Now we have learnt that airlines in India are working to stop middle seats booking to maintain a distance between aisle and window seat travelers. This might be a blessing in disguise for many, but lesser occupants in a flight means more cost of traveling as the operational cost for a plane right from the fuel to parking fees, staff salary all remains the same.
This burden will directly be transferred to the end consumers who will be shelling out more money to travel in the coming days.
Not only this, airports are also preparing for social distancing. Check-in counters will now open 3 hours prior to flight (currently its 2 hours for domestic flights), and will close 1 hour prior (currently its 40-50 minutes), to allow more time for sanitized processing of customers and baggage.
GoAir, Vistara have announced a slew of measures to protect its staff, crew, and passengers in preparation for a phase-wise commencement of flights from 4th May 2020.
Reduction of inflight service to minimize non-essential interaction between passengers and crew will be adhered. Also, only water will be provided and there will be no meals or snack service.
Crew will be wearing face masks and gloves at all times when interacting with passengers and when in the aisle. Non-essential movement in the aisle will be discouraged too.
Commenting on the measures being taken, Vinay Dube, CEO – GoAir, said: “GoAir is in full preparation mode for a gradual commencement of flights from 4th May 2020. Nothing is more important to us at GoAir than the safety and well-being of our staff, crew and passengers. We are going above and beyond the Government recommendations in an effort to ensure maximum health and safety measures are undertaken as we gradually emerge from this unimaginable and unprecedented global crisis”.
“While the situation remains fluid, we plan to resume services in a phased manner starting 4 May 2020. We will make every effort to protect the health safety of our customers and staff, following all regulatory guidelines as well as by adopting certain important, stringent preventive measures proactively. We will ensure social distancing across all touchpoints and continue with our stepped up cleaning measures. Any passenger showing symptoms of fever and/or respiratory illness will undergo a precautionary check-up with the Airport Medical Support Team. We will also make temporary adjustments in some of the aspects of our onboard service purely to minimize interaction between cabin crew and customers.” – Vistara Spokesperson said.
Simply put, air travel will not remain the same in the post COVID-19 period, at least till the world finds a vaccine to stop the spread of Coronavirus.