Domestic Flights From Monday, Minister Says Middle Seats Can’t Be Vacant

Flights were stopped in late-March when the government took various measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

New Delhi: 

Domestic passenger flights will resume from Monday “in a calibrated manner”, the government said today. There may be fewer flights but Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said “it is not viable” to keep middle seat vacant as ticket prices would shoot up. Sources say the government has discussed capping air fares.

Flights were stopped in late March, when the country went into lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday 25th May 2020. All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May,” tweeted Mr Puri.

SOPs for passenger movement and details of flights are expected to be announced tomorrow when the minister briefs the media.

While the government as well as airlines have talked about a “new normal” when flights start again, with fewer passengers in a flight, Mr Puri made it clear that it would not be possible to keep the middle seat vacant, which had been one of the suggestions for ensuring physical distancing to avoid the infection.

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“It’s not viable to keep the middle seat vacant. Even if you keep the middle seat vacant you’ll still have a situation where the prescribed distance for social distancing isn’t followed. If you were to do it then you’ve to hike up airline ticket price by 33 per cent,” the minister was quoted as telling news agency ANI.

Airports have started preparing for flights in the time of COVID-19.

The State has learnt that starting from entry gate to alighting point everything check would be contactless and physical distancing in food areas will be enforced.

Airport authorities are also in talks with cab aggregators on a “sticker system” to indicate that the vehicle is ready and sanitized for passenger use.

The government has not indicated when international travel will restart.

Most airports are already functional as cargo flights, those for medical evacuation and special flights to repatriate Indians stranded abroad have been operating during the lockdown.

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