India’s frequent flyers no doubt have itchy feet, and they just might find it is something of a pleasure to fly through the country’s airports once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
According to Airport Technology, the Indian government has drawn up new hygiene and safety rules for airports and airlines to adopt when the current lockdown ends.
Empty middle seats for all?
Reports say India’s Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is responsible for airport security, wants airlines to keep a vacant seat between passengers, once flights resume.
Demand is expected to be low when the skies reopen, and such a change would no doubt be warmly welcomed by passengers who are used to being crammed in like sardines.
Interestingly, the idea is already taking off in Europe, where leading low-cost airline easyJet confirmed it expects to keep middle seats vacant when it begins flying again.
The airline’s chief executive, Johan Lundgren, said:
"I expect that to happen. That is something that we will do because I think that is something that the customers would like to see. Then we will work out with the authorities and listen to the customers' views and points on what they believe is the right thing to do, particularly in the start-up period. Our assumption is that load factors will not get back to normal early on."
Most of easyJet’s planes are configured in a 3-3 setup, meaning it would be an easy change for them to introduce.
With the exception of some aircraft inherited from Jet Airways (they have a small business class cabin), most of SpiceJet’s 737 aircraft are kitted out in the same 3-3-3 manner.
Vistara’s A320 and 737 aircraft are also configured that way (with the exception of a business class cabin on some planes).
Passengers to carry protective equipment
The CISF plan, currently under consideration by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, also calls for passengers to carry protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
They would be required to report to the airport at least two hours before their flight, while sanitiser bottles would be installed at entry and exit gates.
The security force also wants airlines to procure details of travellers’ health and quarantine history, with additional screening at the airport for those travelling after being in quarantine.
Regular commercial flights are currently suspended until May 3.
So far, India has reported more than 13,400 cases of coronavirus and 448 deaths.
Blocking middle seats to give passengers more space and maintain social distancing would be a great move for the travelling public.
Reality probably dictates that demand for air travel will be relatively low initially, so the move makes sense from that perspective too.
It would also be good to see airports taking stronger measures to maintain hygiene.
Are you excited about flying again, post-coronavirus?