Sunday, May 10, 2020

Airlines ready for contactless flying, post Covid

While airlines are not keen on leaving a seat vacant in between rows to ensure social distancing, they are readying alternative plans for starting post-covid flying operations once the lockdown is lifted. This includes health check-up prior to boarding for fever symptoms, minimising touchpoints of contact between customers and crew, reducing meal choices and withdrawing onboard reading material.

“We intend to minimise touchpoints of contact between our customers and crew by up to 80 per cent. On domestic flights, the service alterations include a reduction in meal choices and withdrawal of services such as onboard sales.

Water-pouring will be replaced with the distribution of 200-ml sealed water bottles on all flights. We will also discontinue reading material from seatback pockets on all aircraft,” said a Vistara spokesperson. As precautionary measures, most airlines are looking to clean all aircraft at the turnaround of every single flight,and deep cleaning every 24 hours.

Airline crew are expected to wear PPE at all times and customers will be requested to wear masks as well. Aircraft will also be equipped with surgical masks, gloves, sanitiser wipes, and contactless infrared thermometers, in case needed. Any passenger showing symptoms of Covid-19 will undergo a precautionary check-up with the Airport Medical Support Team.

Capt Shakti Lumba, former Vice-President, Flight Operations of IndiGo, said, “For starters, it will be good if each passenger is checked prior to boarding for flu or fever symptoms. If each passenger was to wear a mask and surgical gloves then the chances of infection would be reduced to about 1 per cent.”

Some international airlines like Delta have started blocked sale of middle seats on all flights. Delta is also blocking the sale of select aisle and window seats on additional aircraft. However, airline industry experts are quite clear that leaving the middle seat vacant to maintain social distancing norms is financially unviable.

IndiGo's Chief Commercial Officer, Willy Boulter, told BusinessLine that the distance between the three passengers in a row is very less anyway and leaving the seat vacant would not serve any purpose.

Lufthansa, which had initially started blocking middle seats, has rolled it back. “Due to the current low occupancy rate, seats will nevertheless be allocated as widely as possible throughout the cabin,” it said.
10/05/20 Forum Gandhi/Business Line

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