Get ready for the skies again.

Get ready for the skies again.

Domestic air travel back from May 25; fares capped, crew in hazmats

7 price bands, only Web check-ins, no meals onboard, no flying from containment

Agency Report | New Delhi | 21 May, 2020 | 11:00 PM

Indian carriers will resume operations from 25 May with one third of the capacity and stringent protocols, including flights to key metros like Delhi and Mumbai, which have reported high incidents of Covid-19 infections. The capacity utilisation restriction is of one-third for the approved summer schedule. Fares will also be capped with a lower and upper price limit that will stay till 24 August, the initial phase of opening up of the skies.

The Centre on Thursday came out with seven price bands comprising 14 maximum and minimum fares for different routes that will be offered to passengers for domestic air travel starting May 25.

Aviation sector regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a circular outlining the fares on which airlines will offer tickets.

“Whereas it is necessary to ensure that the airlines do not charge excessive fare on the one hand and also to ensure that journey is performed only for essential purposes, it is therefore necessary to fix a fare band within which the airlines should charge,” the DGCA said in a circular.

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.

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 Rs 10,000. Sector ‘D’ includes routes like Delhi-Mumbai, among others.

Other sectors such as ‘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.

“At least 40 per cent of the tickets of a particular flight shall be sold for the fare less than the mid-fare between minimum and maximum fares (excluding UDF, PSF and GST),” the circular said.

The circular came after Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said at a press conference on Thursday that domestic passenger flight services recommencing from Monday will have a fixed minimum and maximum fare structure for different routes.

While detailing the plans to re-start domestic operations, he said the step has been taken under the special prevailing circumstances that have come about due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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 lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Domestic passenger flight services commencing from Monday will have a fixed minimum and maximum fare structure for different routes, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday.

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

The minister further said the limited passenger flight operations of about one-third capacity of summer schedule would be permitted to operate between metro cities from May 25.

This capacity might be ramped up in the subsequent time period.

Furthermore, during the briefing, it was disclosed that there is no quarantine requirement for air crew operating domestic flights due to shorter duration of these operations.

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

The guidelines advised “Vulnerable” persons, such as the very elderly, pregnant ladies, and passengers with health issues to avoid air travel.

Besides, it said that no physical check-in counters would be allowed at the airport.

“Only those passengers with confirmed web check-in shall be allowed to enter the airport,” the guidelines said.

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

“The passenger shall not travel if he or she is staying in a containment zone. Also, they should not travel if they have been tested positive for Covid-l9. 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 airport, the passenger should take all precautions to prevent infection.

On the luggage part, the passenger would be entitled to carry maximum of one hand baggage and one checked-in baggage as per the specifications by the airline concerned.

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

Its 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 before entering the terminal, the SoP said.

The airlines will not provide meal services onboard as per the guidelines. Passengers will be required to wear the face mask right before entering the terminal till the end of the journey.

The cabin crew also will have to be in full protective suit.

India will allow resumption of domestic passenger flight operations in a calibrated manner, exactly two months after suspending them under the national lockdown norms.

In a tweet, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday said: “Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday, 25th May 2020.”

“All airports & air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May,” he said.

The development comes a day after Puri had said that it is not only up to the Central government to decide on the resumption of domestic flights, as states will also have to be ready to allow civil aviation operations.

“It is not up to @MoCA_GoI or centre alone to decide on resuming domestic flights. In the spirit of cooperative federalism, the govt of states where these flights will take off & land should be ready to allow civil aviation operations,” Puri had tweeted on Tuesday.

On Sunday, after the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to extend the lockdown till May 31, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had said that it will suitably inform the airlines about flights resumption in due course.

In its guidelines for lockdown 4.0, the MHA had said that all domestic and international air travel of passengers will be prohibited, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes.

When contacted on Wednesday, many airline executives said they will now swiftly load new ticket bookings itineraries representing the new schedule from May 25 onward on online platforms.

However, this can only happen after the issuance of new route allocation and other SoP norms.

Besides immediate financial relief, the move allows the airlines to keep their staff and aircraft ready for the re-start of operations.

At present, some players have made cargo operations their main revenue stream. Still, fixed cost, especially the employee compensation component alone, has dented their financial positions and stock prices.

Nevertheless, the latest announcement should bring some stability to the companies business continuity plans.

A second airline executive said that not all sectors are likely to be offered under the new bookings itinerary.

“This resumption will go a long way in lifting the overall economic sentiment in the country,” said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet.

“While the SOP for resumption of operations and details of flights to be operated is still awaited, we are sure that this much-awaited move will help a large number of passengers by providing them access to the safest and quickest means of transport.”

Airline major IndiGo in a statement said: “We are fully prepared with safety measures w.r.t. COVID-19 across all our passenger and CarGo interfaces during their journey with us.”

“We will share further details and guidelines for passengers, in line with the advisory from the authorities over the next few days.”

According to Dhruv Shringi, Co-Founder and CEO, Yatra.com: “While we anticipate change in customer demand and confidence, but are also hopeful that this move will give the much needed economic stimulus to the tourism sector and travel agents.”

On his part, Aloke Bajpai, CEO and Co-founder, ixigo said: “It’s a positive step much awaited by airlines and the OTAs – we look forward to the detailed SOPs and guidelines.”

“The industry now needs to collaborate and focus on advertising all the confidence-building measures that will reassure travellers to get back on a plane. Reopening domestic flights will give a big boost to our economy and kick start the recovery of the travel industry which was the most affected during the lockdown.” (IANS)