COVID-19: Brand new rules for flying

COVID-19: Brand new rules for flying

Airlines resume operations by installing hospital-grade air filters, issuing safety kits, and barring eating on board

Vistara is giving out safety kits to passengers. A kit contains a mask, a face shield and a bottle of hand sanitiser.

The Bengaluru airport is bustling again with new passenger guidelines and procedures in place.  Metrolife spoke to several airlines, and got details of how they were adapting to the new normal.

Air filters to beat virus

AirAsia India is among the airlines to have equipped all its aircraft with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestor) filtration systems, said to filter 99.99 per cent of dust particles and airborne contaminants such as viruses and bacteria. 

“The filters are similar to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operation theatres. We will be enforcing stringent safety measures including regular disinfection procedures,” an AirAsia spokesperson told Metrolife.

AirAsia cabin crew and pilots have gone through training in accordance with the stipulations of the ministry of civil aviation. Pilots and the cabin crew will be operating with masks, face shields, protective gowns and gloves. They are trained to assist with and manage medical situations, the airline says. “We have been working closely with airport operators to maintain adequate social distancing and promote contactless interactions,” he says.

No in-flight meal

Indigo, with about 250 aircraft, operates 1,500 daily flights connecting 63 domestic and 24 international destinations. 

“We will be stopping our in-flight meal services to minimise contact with the crew though we will be serving water on demand,” says an Indigo spokesperson. The airline is encouraging passengers to use airport rest rooms and eat at the airports as much as possible to minimise movement inside the aircraft. “They will not be allowed to consume any food inside the aircraft,” the spokesperson says.

 Indigo’s pilots have been attending webinars on yoga and zumba to stay physically fit. “The two months have been used resourcefully. All pilots were put through a rigorous 40-module training programme after which they had to take a test. The modules were like a refresher course on aircraft information, navigation, mapping, radio and management principles in the time of Covid-19. They are all tweaked to suit pandemic times,” a pilot told Metrolife. 

 In an effort to make sure that their pilots were emotionally and mentally reassured, wellness experts from the company regularly rang them up. Not all pilots with Indigo were out of touch with flying over the last two months.

“Senior pilots would operate cargo flights carrying medicines and PPE. They were trained with simulators to follow all flying protocols and guidelines during the pandemic. They will in turn train the junior staff,” he says.

Flying lessons  

All through the pandemic, Vistara has kept pilots updated with the help of newsletters and virtual meetings. “A special edition newsletter on resumption of operations was also issued with pictorial illustrations on how to prepare for a flight after a long hiatus,” says Capt Basil Kwauk, senior vice president and head of flight operations, Vistara.

Since the flight simulator centres were reopened three weeks ago, Vistara began bringing pilots back for simulator training.

“Only crew who are current will be rostered for flights during the restart of operations. We have also begun rostering pilots for ground training refreshers through distance learning,” adds Captain Basil.

All Vistara’s staff will wear appropriate PPE at all times, says Vinod Kannan, chief commercial officer, Vistara.

“Our cabin crew are now wearing protective gowns, face masks, and face shields during flight operations,”
he says.

Kannan says that each passenger is being given a safety kit, consisting of a face mask, face shield, and sanitiser. “They will be required to wear face masks throughout their journey - onboard and on-ground- and use hand sanitisers frequently. We are disinfecting all our aircraft at the turn-around of every single flight and deep cleaning all aircraft every 24 hours,” he says.

He says powerful HEPA filters purify the air inside the cabin every two to three minutes.

“All other common surfaces such as coaches, baggage drop counters, ramps, wheelchairs etc. are also disinfected using approved cleaning agents. All our aircraft are also equipped with surgical masks, gloves, sanitizer wipes, and contact-less infrared thermometers for any need arising on board,” says Kannan.

Busy again

On Monday, the day restrictions on flying were eased, the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru saw 60 departures and 53 arrivals (in 24 hours on May 25).

What’s new

  • All passengers must reach the airport three hours before departure.
  • No eating allowed on Indigo flights. Only water will be served. 
  • Vistara is giving out safety kits to passengers. A kit contains a mask, a face shield and hand sanitiser.
  • Pilots and cabin crew oriented to pandemic-era flying.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox