Airlines are not permitted to serve meals in domestic flights that have a duration of less than two hours, the civil aviation ministry said on Monday, as coronavirus cases continue to spiral across the country.
The ban will come into effect from Thursday, the ministry said in its order.
When scheduled domestic flights were resumed on May 25 after coronavirus lockdown last year, the ministry had allowed the airlines to serve in-flight meals under certain conditions.
Modifying the previous order, the ministry's fresh directive said: "The airlines, operating flights on domestic sectors, may provide meals services on board, where the in-flight duration is two hours or more."
The ministry said it decided to review the on-board meal services in domestic flights due to the "the increasing threat of COVID-19 and its variants".
Airlines are permitted to serve only pre-packed snacks, meals and pre-packed beverages on flights that have a duration of more than two hours,. The servicing of in-flight meals must be staggered "among the adjacent seats as far as possible", it added.
The ministry said all three coronavirus variants of the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil demonstrated increased transmissibility, as reported by the World Health Organization.
India has surpassed Brazil to record the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases at 1,35,27,717, as a record 1,68,912 new infections were reported on Monday. The active cases have surpassed the 12-lakh mark, while the toll increased to 1,70,179 with 904 more deaths, the highest since October 18.
Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, special international passenger flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since last May and under bilateral air-bubble arrangements formed with 28 countries since July.