Tuesday, 13 April 2021 | PNS | New Delhi
The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) on Monday banned meal services on flights with less than two hours of travel duration to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection. The norm will come into effect from April 15.
However, there are no restrictions on serving meals on international flights as of now. Airlines are permitted to serve only pre-packed snacks, meals, and pre-packed beverages on flights that have duration of more than two hours.
“The airline operating flights on domestic sectors may provide meal services onboard, wherein the flight duration is two hours or more…” MoCA’s Joint Secretary Usha Padhee said in an office memorandum on Monday, which marked to the Directorate of Civil Aviation. “Crew shall wear a fresh set of gloves for each meal/beverage service,” it added.
The decision was taken amid fears that passengers taking off masks to eat may lead to the spread of the virus. While in-flight meals can’t be avoided on medium or long hauls, the restriction has
been imposed on domestic flights of up to two hours duration for now.
“Airlines are permitted to serve only pre-packed snacks, meals and pre-packed beverages on flights that have a duration of more than two hours, subject to the conditions include that in all classes, tray set up, plates and cutlery will be completely disposable with no re-use, or cleaned and disinfected rotables will be used; Used disposable trays/crockery’s /cutleries shall not be used; In all classes, tea/coffee/alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage services will be in disposable cans/containers/bottles glasses and there will be no pouring service. The servicing of in-flight meals must be staggered among the adjacent seats as far as possible,” it added. The Ministry asked airlines to inform passengers before the start of catering services by way of passenger announcements.
The Ministry noted that currently three strains of the SARS-CoV-2, which causes the coronavirus disease, currently in circulation in India have been detected in various countries. “All three variants of the UK, South Africa and Brazil have demonstrated increased transmissibility, as reported by the World Health Organization. Meanwhile in India, the number of Covid-19 cases are increasing,” it said.
India has overtaken Brazil to become the second-most affected country globally in terms of Covid cases, after the USA. India’s overall tally reached 1.35 crore, surpassing Brazil’s 1.34 crore cases.
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.
Meanwhile, the surge in cases has prompted Air India to opt for 100 per cent pre-flight testing for crew operating nonstops to US, UK, Canada and Australia. Air India has also started post-flight testing for crew on flights from UAE, UK and Europe.
Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, special international passenger flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since last May and under bilateral air-bubble arrangements formed with 28 countries since July.