Domestic flights to resume from May 25; Middle seats can't be vacant: Puri
New Delhi, May 20: Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday said domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from May 25.
"All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25 May. SOPs for passenger movement also being separately issued by the ministry," he said in a tweet.
Puri made it clear that it would not be possible to keep the middle seat vacant, which had been one of the suggestions for ensuring physical distancing to avoid the infection.
"It's not viable to keep the middle seat vacant. Even if you keep the middle seat vacant you'll still have a situation where the prescribed distance for social distancing isn't followed. If you were to do it then you've to hike up airline ticket price by 33 per cent," the minister was quoted as telling news agency ANI.
All domestic passenger flight operations have been suspended for the 54-day lockdown period that began on March 25. However, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights and special flights approved by the aviation regulator DGCA were allowed to operate.
Earlier this month, in communication to airport managers across the country, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) asked all airports to be in preparedness to handle flight operations.
Issuing a set of standard operating procedures, AAI's directorate of operations said: "Once the lockdown period is declared to be over, airports shall be facilitating limited domestic/international scheduled flights in phases, to start with, maybe at 30 per cent capacity to facilitate required social distancing".
It added initially, airline operations may be limited to Tier-l cities and major Tier-ll cities.
The Centre is looking at the option of making the Aarogya Setu app mandatory for flyers to have it installed on their phones while taking any flight. "If the proposal is approved in the Aviation ministry, passengers who do not have the app on their phone would not be allowed to board their flight," PTI quoted an official as saying.