Wednesday, April 21, 2021

India inflight meal ban minimizes mask removal, ancillary revenues

The aggressive resurgence of COVID-19 in India has pushed back aviation industry recovery in the region, and removed an ancillary revenue stream for some Indian operators.

To help tackle the surge in COVID-19 cases, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation on 15 April 2021 banned airlines from serving food on flights under two hours in length.

Last May, when an initial lockdown was lifted, airlines were permitted to serve food with some restrictions. The current ban aims to minimize mask removal by passengers.

Domestic flights of over two hours have staggered catering. And inflight announcements are being made to ensure passengers are aware of the guidelines. International flights are not included.

Yet, on international flights — in all classes — plates and cutlery are to be disposable “with no re-use, cleaned and disinfected rotables”, cautioned the ministry’s notice. The crew also wear a fresh set of gloves for every meal or beverage service.

The ministry’s decision has been applauded by Dr. SCL Gupta, managing director of one of Delhi’s leading hospitals, Batra Hospital and Medical Research Center. He notes that not everybody wears a mask, even though mandated on board, so the risk of contracting the virus becomes higher. He believes that middle seats should be blocked “though the distance between the aisle and window is (still) not good enough for social distancing”.

Frequent traveler Vishok Mansingh confirms that some passengers do not want to comply with wearing a mask. “Some people are very undisciplined, walking around the cabin without masks. This is scary.”

He believes the ban on serving food on short-haul flights is a good idea and could even be strengthened to include longer flights. The Bangalore-Srinagar flight, as operated by Vistara, is under three and a half hours. “Surely people can exist without food for that long,” he opines.

20/04/21  Neelam Mathews/Runway Girl Network

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