Airports Authority of India (AAI) has issued detailed guidelines to its airports for managing post-lockdown operations that imposes several restrictions, including on the number of terminals as well as on retail outlets providing food and beverages.
“Initially, it is presumed that airline operations will be limited to tier-I cities i.e. metros and some of the state capitals and major Tier-II cities,” said the AAI guidelines, a copy of which is accessed by news agency Press Trust of Inida.
The AAI, which manages more than 100 airports across India, said if an airport has multiple terminals, then only one terminal should be used initially in the post-lockdown period. Also if the airport has multiple baggage carousels, alternate ones must be used so as to maintain social distancing, it added.
“Limited food and beverages and retail outlets to be made available to the passengers till operations of airlines gradually increases. Initially, they should serve tea/coffee etc. with take away snacks in boxes,” it said and added that alcoholic beverages will not be permitted at bars or restaurants in airports unless the city or state administration permits it.
Airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad are managed by private companies and not by the AAI.
Last week, both the GMR group-led DIAL, which manages the Delhi airport, and the GVK group-led MIAL, which manages the Mumbai airport, said they would be implementing rigorous measures to deal with COVID-19, like putting markings to ensure 1.5 mtrs distance between passengers in queues and establishing temporary quarantine centres in terminals.
India is under a 40-day lockdown since March 25 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the government imposed a 21-day lockdown till April 14 and later extended it by 19 days till May 3. All commercial passenger flights have been suspended for the lockdown period. However, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights, and special flights permitted by the aviation regulator DGCA are allowed to operate.
The guidelines also emphasised that airports must coordinate with local governments to ensure availability of “proper public transport and private taxis during the post-lockdown period” for passengers, airport staff, airline staff, etc.
The AAI-managed airports have been asked to assign designated parking stands and baggage belts for flights arriving from COVID-19 hotspots.
Asserting that airports will need to assess the terminal building capacity as per social distancing norms and forward it to the corporate headquarters in Delhi, the AAI said once capacity is analysed, the authority along with the airlines will allocate the airport slots accordingly.
An airport slot is the time duration during which a flight can depart or arrive at the airport.
The guidelines stated that the airlines need to submit their flight schedule to the aviation regulator DGCA and simultaneously apply to the AAI for approval of the slots.
Seating arrangement of passengers should be done to maintain 1-1.5 meter distance among the passengers, it said, adding that social distancing markers will be placed all over the airport.
Sufficient staff, the guidelines said, must be deployed near washrooms, X-ray machines and conveyor belts to ensure that passengers maintain social distancing norms.
Alternate check-in counters may be opened and that too well-in advance so as to stagger the crowd and avoid congestion, the guidelines noted.
“A dedicated triage Area/ Isolation area needs to be set up along with primary medical facilities at both arriving and departing terminals for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients,” the AAI guidelines said.
When suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases or passengers with “suspicious symptoms” are found in airports, entire terminal disinfection process should be performed by professionals, using duly approved disinfecting devices, it added.