Airlines are not permitted to serve meals in flights that have a duration of less than two hours, the Civil Aviation Ministry said on Monday, as coronavirus cases continue to soar in the country.
The ban will come into effect from Thursday, the ministry said in its order. When scheduled domestic flights were resumed on May 25 after coronavirus lockdown last year, the ministry had allowed the airlines to serve in-flight meals under certain conditions.
Modifying the previous order, the ministry’s fresh directive said: “The airlines, operating flights on domestic sectors, may provide meals services on board, where the in-flight duration is two hours or more.”
The ministry stated it has decided to review the on-board meal services in domestic flights considering “the increasing threat of COVID-19 and its variants”.
The government has banned in-flight catering in domestic flights with less than two hours of flying time, in a bid to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection.
“The airlines, operating flights on domestic sectors may provide meal services on board, where in the flight duration is two hours or more,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a notification on April 12.
The tweak in providing meal services come even as air passenger traffic has come down in the last two weeks because of the re-surge in COVID-19 cases, and fresh restrictions imposed by state governments.
The government’s latest directive comes with a set of conditions for catering on the longer flights, of over two hours. These include, usage of only disposable cutlery and servicing of meals will be staggered ‘among the adjacent seats as far as possible.’
Calling the government order a ‘good move,’ Sanjiv Kapoor, Senior Advisor, Alton Aviation; former COO SpiceJet and CSCO, Vistara, proposed that the ban be extended to flights of up to three to four hours. “The revenue loss will be a small sacrifice relative to the reduction of COVID risk.
A huge loophole will finally be plugged. For longer flights, meals can be staggered so not all masks off at same time,” he said on Twitter.
It is yet not clear though if the government order also prevents passengers bringing their own food and eating them in-flight. “I think unless medically required, this should not be permitted as it will negate the entire point, which is to not have masks off for meals,” Kapoor said.
Report by Chetali S M
Reported on – 12/04/2021