Flights to start in phases between major cities: AAI

Airports will be facilitating limited domestic and international operations with 30% of all scheduled flights being operational, once the lockdown is lifted, says AAI

Flights to start in phases between major cities: AAI

NEW DELHI : State-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) expects about a third of total flights to be operational immediately after the current lockdown is lifted, with flight operations limited between major cities before being gradually scaled up.

According to a standard operational procedure (SOP) guidelines prepared by AAI, which was shared with station heads and senior officials of the public sector company, airports will be facilitating limited domestic and international scheduled flights in phases at 30% capacity to facilitate required social distancing, once the lockdown is lifted.

"Based on the social distancing norms, airports will work out the terminal building capacity and forward it to CHQ (central headquarters) so that slot allocation for the planned scheduled flights post COVID 19 lockdown by airline operators can be done accordingly," AAI said in an internal communication.

“The watch hours will continue to be limited initially and airlines should try to operate within the watch hours. However, the watch hours will be restored to original pre-COVID timings gradually once normalcy is restored," it added.

A copy of the AAI communication has been reviewed by Mint.

"Immediately after the lockdown is lifted, or as per government directives in this direction, the scheduled flight operations will commence. Hence, all airports are required to be in preparedness to handle the flight operations," AAI said in an international communication.

"Initially it is presumed that airline operations will be limited to Tier-l cities i.e. metros and some of the state capitals and major Tier-ll cities. The flight schedule may be cleared on city pair basis, so the origin and destination airports are open fully from lock down situation," it added.

AAI operates a large number of airports and handles air traffic control services, across the country.

"Limited F&B (food and beverages) and retail outlets to be made available to the passengers till operations of airlines gradually increase," AAI said adding that social distancing measures are implemented as per directives of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

"To check the health & screening of the passengers both departing and arriving, sufficient number of doctors and paramedics shall be deployed by state govt. or APHO (Airport Health Organization)," it added.

When contacted, an AAI spokesperson didn't offer comments.

Meanwhile, national carrier Air India Ltd flight operations could commence by mid-May, in an internal memo to senior officials.

"There is a probability to commence 25%-30% operations post lockdown in mid-May 2020," the airlines executive director (operations) captain RS Sandhu said in an internal communication to senior airline staff.

In the mail, Sandhu directed the airline's officials to ensure crew transport at all stations, since borders have been sealed during the ongoing lockdown making it difficult for crew to move to their base airports.

Sandhu also asked the airline's officials to give head count of total number of cabin and cockpit crew residing outside municipal limits of their bases so that curfew passes could be arranged for them.

When contacted, an Air India spokesperson said that the internal memo stated the operation preparedness of the airline so that the crew is ready to operate when lockdown is lifted.

"We can't say when the lockdown will be lifted. It will be communicated to you by Air India and the ministry of civil aviation," the spokesperson added.

Airlines are currently grounded and airport operations halted during a government imposed lockdown to contain covid-19 pandemic which has claimed hundreds and thousands of lives globally. As things stand, a countrywide lockdown has been implemented till 3 May.