Fare structure, SoPs set for air travel, flights to resume on Monday

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri

New Delhi, (Asian independent) The Centre has set new safety procedures along with price points for the recommencement of India’s domestic passenger flight services from Monday (May 25).

The expansive guidelines, notifications and circulars not just outline the safety standards of social distancing, but also thermal screening, passenger and air crew behaviours.

Besides, the domestic passenger flight services will also have a fixed minimum and maximum fare structure for different routes.

Detailing the plans for recommencement of flight services on Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the step to fix the fare bands has been taken under the special prevailing circumstances that have come about due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the new fare structure, air routes have divided into seven sections based on travel time. Each such section has its minimum and maximum fare.

As per the details, the seven price bands are based on the duration of the flights with ‘A’ being the shortest and ‘G’ being the longest. The price bands have been instituted for three months, from May 25 to August 24.

Based on the circular, sector ‘A’ has routes with travel time of less than 40 minutes; the airlines will offer tickets in the band of Rs 2,000 to Rs 6,000 for such flights. This sector includes routes such as Delhi-Chandigarh, Jammu-Srinagar and Patna-Ranchi, among others.

Similarly, sector ‘B’ has flights with duration of more than 40 minutes up to 60 minutes. Flights under this sector include Delhi-Bhopal and Delhi-Lucknow, among others, and tickets for these flights will be priced from Rs 2,500 to Rs 7,500.

Subsequently, sector ‘C’ has a price band of Rs 3,000 to Rs 9,000, whereas sector ‘D’ flight tickets will be priced from Rs 3, 500 to Rs 10,000. Sector ‘D’ includes routes like Delhi-Mumbai, among others.

Sector ‘E’ has a price band of Rs 4,500 Rs 13,000, while sector ‘F’ tickets will cost between Rs 5,500 and Rs 15,700.

For the longest duration segment � �G’ — tickets will cost between Rs 6,500 and Rs 18,600. This sector includes routes like Delhi-Port Blair.

Puri also said that limited passenger flight operations of about one-third capacity of the summer schedule would be permitted to operate between metro cities from May 25. This capacity might be ramped up in the subsequent time period.

During the briefing, it was disclosed that there are no quarantine requirements for the air crew operating the domestic flights due to shorter duration of these operations.

The briefing was held after the Ministry of Civil Aviation came out with detailed guideline for airlines and passengers.

As per the guidelines, “Vulnerable” persons, such as very elderly, pregnant ladies and passengers with health issues, should avoid air travel.

It further said that no physical check-in counters would be allowed at the airports. “Only those passengers with confirmed web check-in shall be allowed to enter the airports,” the guidelines said.

Additionally, the guidelines said that passengers would be required to certify their status in terms of coronavirus infection through the Aarogya Setu app or a self-declaration form.

“Passengers shall not travel if they are staying in a containment zone. Also, they should not travel if they have tested positive for Covid-19. The passengers are expected to certify the status of their health through the Aarogya Setu app or a self-declaration form,” the guidelines said.

If a passenger, who is not permitted to fly, undertakes an air journey, he or she shall be liable for penal action, as per the guidelines.

Further, passengers will have to wear protective gear, or a face mask, before entering the terminal as per the prevailing requirement and he/she will continue to wear the mask throughout the journey.

During transit to airports, passengers should take all precautions to prevent infection.

On the luggage part, passengers would be entitled to carry a maximum of one hand baggage and one check-in baggage.

In addition, the state-run Airports Authority of India has advised passengers to reach the airport 2 hours prior to departure.

The standard operating procedures (SoPs) also advised passengers to install the Aarogya Setu mobile app. All passengers will be required to go in for a thermal check-up before entering the terminal, the SoP said.

India has allowed airlines to recommence domestic passenger flight operations in a calibrated manner from May 25.

Passenger air services were suspended for both scheduled domestic and international flights since March 25, due to the imposition of the nationwide lock down in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Airlines and the travel industry have welcomed the move and the new guidelines.

“Aviation is a growth engine for the economy and resumption of air travel will give great impetus to the government’s overall efforts in helping the country eventually return to normalcy,” said Vistara CEO Leslie Thng.

“We will support the government’s initiatives and maintain the highest level of safety, hygiene and security in our operations to provide a flying experience to passengers that they can continue to trust,” Thng added.

Bird Group’s Executive Director Ankur Bhatia said: “Even though the capacity will be limited to begin with, it is a step in the right direction as many stranded people will be able to travel by air.

“The fare cap might be challenging and impact the airline yields but these are extraordinary times and such measures are required. Three months are the right period to see how the demand plays out with fare caps in place. Eventually, the industry will bounce back as reform measures are afoot.”

According to Rajesh Magow, Co-founder and Group CEO, MakeMyTrip: “The resumption of domestic air travel after a shutdown of 60 days is an important step that will provide access to thousands of people via the quickest means possible. It will also go a long way in helping kick-start economic activities as businesses reopen.

“Safety of travellers is paramount to us and as domestic skies open up, we will continue to work closely with our airline partners to ensure safe and convenient travel experience, adhering to the new protocols announced by the ministry.”