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Airports prepare for take-off with lower capacity

By Aneesh Phadnis
April 30, 2020 13:37 IST
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Airlines and airports are devising their own standard operating procedures, with a limited number of flights being planned to enable social distancing on ground and inside aircraft.

Indian airports are preparing to handle only 30 per cent of the normal flight schedule, in the first phase of operations, after lifting of the lockdown.

Airlines and airports are devising their own standard operating procedures, with a limited number of flights being planned to enable social distancing on ground and inside aircraft.

 

Flight operations have been suspended since March 23, with the date for resumption yet to be announced.

“Once the lockdown is lifted, airports shall be facilitating limited domestic/ international flights in phases,” Airport Authority of India (AAI) said in its internal guidelines on resumption of operations.

To begin with, this could mean around 30 per cent of flights, it said.

Pre-lockdown, airports in India were handling close to 7,800 scheduled domestic and international flights every day, with half of them being handled by airports controlled by Airports Authority of India.

Now, airlines and airports are planning for fewer flights, even as they finalise new service procedures and protocols.

Passenger footfall will be less and travel demand will depend on public confidence as well as ticket prices.

For instance, GoAir is preparing to resume with a fleet of 8-10 aircraft.

In CY19, airports in India handled 349 million passengers.

The Airport Council International (ACI) estimates that owing to the pandemic, footfall will reduce by 40 per cent in CY20 across Asian airports.

According to AAI guidelines, in airports with multiple terminals, only a single terminal will be made operational so as to enable better cleaning.

Changes will be made in the check-in process, as well as in seating arrangements inside the terminal, to avoid crowding.

This could include opening of alternate check-in counters, or opening of counters before schedule.

Along with social distancing, measures will be put in place for passenger screening and sanitisation of facilities.

In addition, limited number of food and beverage counters and retail outlets will be opened, with take-away facilities.

The AAI guidelines also state that airport facilities such as smoking rooms, kids play areas, and prayer rooms shall be restricted to a limited number of people, to minimise gathering.

Measures are being proposed to ensure social distancing among incoming passengers.

At the Mumbai airport, sequential and gradual disembarkation of arriving passengers is being planned.

Floor marking, too, will be done in front of the Immigration and Customs counters for social distancing.

Photograph: B Mathur/Reuters

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Aneesh Phadnis in Mumbai
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