Civil Aviation Ministry Releases SOP For Restarting Commercial Flights

The civil aviation ministry has come out with a draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for restarting commercial air passenger services in the country, which remain suspended since March 25 in the wake of the lockdown.

This includes-Filling up of a detailed questionnaire related to COVID-19, carrying no cabin baggage, using Aarogya Setu app and reaching airport at least two hours before a flight departure. These could be the requirements for air passengers during the initial phase after resumption of commercial flights.

Green status on Aarogya Setu app, web check-in, and temperature checks for all domestic departing and arriving passengers have also been proposed.

The draft SOP has also mandated rostering the same set of cabin and cockpit crew as long as possible in order to prevent possible cross contamination.

The draft SOP has suggested measures for security agencies as well as airport operators, including doing away with identity card checks at airport entry gates and ensuring social distancing requirements.

Another suggestion is to keep three rows of an aircraft vacant for isolating any passenger who has a medical emergency onboard.

The draft SOP was prepared after discussions with stakeholders, including airlines and airport operators.
The draft document does not refer to leaving the middle seat of the aircraft vacant for maintaining social distancing which Aviation regulator DGCA had initially suggested.

“A questionnaire to be circulated to the passenger and filled up by them in advance about their past history related to COVID-19 and quarantine, if any, in last one month.”

“Any passenger who has undergone quarantine in the last one month to be sent for security at the isolated security check unit only,” as per the document.

According to the document, passengers should be advised to familiarise themselves about the new procedures at the airport, especially about social distancing norms and ensuring minimum touching of various surfaces.

They should also be familiar with baggage limitations, COVID-19 questionnaire, need to register on Aarogya Setu app, possibly slower processes at airports and use of authorised taxis to reach airport, it said.

The ministry has proposed that passengers should reach the airport at least two hours before a flight and do away with passenger identity checks at airport entry gates to minimise rush at the entry points.

Passengers can do web check-in and carrying cabin baggage should not be allowed in the initial phase of operations, as per the document.

Airports should have an isolation zone in the terminal building as well as the airside for passengers showing symptoms and state governments should provide requisite help with medical infrastructure in case an airport does not have an APHO (Airport Health Organisation) set-up, it noted.

Airports would have to put in place distance markings, disinfecting all common areas like lifts, escalators, chairs in seating areas, food and beverages, and retail outlets. Availability of moveable hand wash cart or alcohol-based hand sanitisers within the terminal should be ensured, the ministry has proposed.