Life as we know it will change, experts have been warning since the coronavirus pandemic engulfed the world. On the first day of the resumption of domestic flight operation after two months of nationwide lockdown, a lot appears to have changed at airports and inside planes as passengers and crews adjust to the new normal. NDTV was today onboard a flight whose crew shared their experience of flying with masks and protective equipment on.
“There is no difference in procedures. We are flying after two months. Air traffic is less than usual, flights are smooth and on time,” Sarjeet Singh, the captain of the flight, said.
“We are inside the cockpit, so we feel safe,” his co-pilot said.
The cabin crew, however, is facing problems adjusting to the new gear.
“It is tough to work wearing PPE (personal protection equipment) kits. It is summers, and the temperature is too high. If any emergency happens, it will be tough to perform (with the kits on). However, services like food and beverage are not allowed. It makes the job slightly easy,” a member said.
“Our uniforms used to be very comfortable. With PPE kits, working is not as easy. There is heat and humidity inside the kits, which don’t have any ventilation. Sometimes, we sweat inside,” another crew added.
The signs of change were visible at the airport gate as well. Luggage was being carried inside on a conveyor belt passing through a disinfectant machine. As the passengers enter, alert security personnel demand identification cards from behind the protection of life-sized screens. The extra layer of security for airport personnel was arranged as hundreds of police and security officials have contracted the disease across the country in the line of duty.
Inside the plane, flight instructions were given by an air hostess wearing a hazmat suit.
A passenger also sat wearing full-body protection suit.
“I went to meet my grandfather and was stranded. Happy that I am going home. Our safety is in our own hands,” he said.
As domestic flights resumed at several airports across India, there was confusion and chaos at airports in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities as a large number of flights were cancelled and passengers complained that they did not get any notification from the airlines.
“There was availability of online tickets so we booked. But as we arrived, we found out there is no flights for Ranchi. Our flight was cancelled,” a passenger said.
The centre announced last Thursday that one-third of pre-lockdown domestic flights will operate from today. All international scheduled commercial passenger flights remain suspended. Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri has indicated that international flights could begin in June.