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Domestic flight operations to resume from May 25: Hardeep Puri

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India will resume domestic flight operations from May 25—two months after the services were suspended following the nationwide lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri on Wednesday announced that operations will recommence in a “calibrated manner” from Monday.

“All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for passenger movement are also being separately issued by civil aviation ministry,” he tweeted.

The domestic flights that will be allowed to operate are likely to connect all major tier-I cities.

Airports will facilitate limited domestic flights in phases and may be at 30% capacity to facilitate social distancing, the Airport Authority of India had earlier stated in a set of guidelines for resumption of service post-lockdown.

All measures for social distancing and screening will be followed at the airports, officials said.

Middle seats inside the plans may not be left vacant, an idea that was being considered earlier by the ministry, officials aware of the development said. The government may also not allow senior citizens aged above 80 years to board the flights. Passengers may have to be quarantined as per the state government’s protocols.

The government may also introduce a cap on airfares, this is being done to protect the consumers and airlines as a temporary measure, officials said.

In its guidelines for the fourth phase of lockdown, the home ministry had said all domestic and international passenger flights will remain suspended till May 31. Both domestic and international cargo flight operations have remained operational since the lockdown.

“This resumption will go a long way in lifting the overall economic sentiment in the country. 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… We will strictly adhere to social distancing norms and SOPs laid down by the Government to ensure the best, the cleanest and the most sanitised flying experience,” said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet.

In a draft standard operating procedures (SOPs) proposed by the civil aviation ministry, it was suggested that cabin luggage be disallowed. The SOP had also suggested passenger ID checks will not be required so as to minimise the crowd at terminal gates.

The Centre will also issue guidelines for the movement of passengers for reaching the airport from different zones including containment areas, similar to the rules for passengers travelling in trains, officials said.

“As per the government announcement made today, we will be resuming flight operations from Monday, May 25, 2020 in a phased manner. 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,” IndiGo said in a statement.

395 new cases, 25 deaths take Guj Covid19 total to 12,141, fatality at 719