Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the world is struggling to cope up with economic and social repercussions of one of the most noxious pandemics after the Spanish flu (1918). Social distancing norms and lockdowns imposed in various countries across the globe has caused many changes besides the public anxiety and general atmosphere of cynicism and gloom. Since travel bans and sealing of domestic and international borders came in as an inevitable measure to ensure the restriction of the virus spread, travel and tourism sectors continue to suffer a major blow during this pandemic. Various countries responded to the pandemic by cancelling flights and restricting as well stiffening the safety protocol at the airports. Given the rapid community spread of the virus, the onus now lies heavily on the passengers to ensure that they are not only following the regulatory guidelines regarding air travel but also not hiding their medical status.
The countries are now gradually opening after the lockdown and so are airlines slowly resuming flights, but not without various restrictions and limitations. In the U.S., Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the State Departments are continually monitoring and reporting the spike in active cases, issuing alerts and releasing travel advisories.The American Airlines has recently released a press statement wherein they announced to resume 40% of their scheduled flights for July 2019, from July 2020. Amongst the precautionary measures, the airlines have made it mandatory for passengers to wear face masks with toddlers marked as an exception to the rule. Furthermore, glassware would be eliminated for food and beverage serving and individual packets would be circulated instead. Earlier this month, a number of European airlines also resumed flights after ten weeks of cancelled cross-border flights, with much stricter travel rules like a two week quarantine period for anyone arriving in the UK. Other countries in the world have also inched back their international as well as air travel but with respective restrictions.
ASEAN countries like Indonesia and Philippines have kept a seat cap for the airlines flying international passengers. Local government enforced restrictions remain much stricter in the Philippines, in contrast to the comparatively relaxed federal government regulations. The tourism based revenue in the ASEAN countries and Asia Pacific region has witnessed a sharp dip as the customers are wary of flying and travel. Apart from the domestic travel, ASEAN countries are still struggling with uniform novel guidelines for safe international travel.
International air travel has stood suspended in India since the announcement of complete lockdown on March 23rd. The Indian government initiated the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back the stranded Indian nationals to the country on May 6th. The fourth phase of this mission will begin from July 3rd and 114 Air India, 457 IndiGo and 41 GoAir flights are scheduled to fly under this phase between July 3rd- July 15. However, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has announced that the international flights would remain suspended till July 15th for the general public. But the Ministry of Aviation is considering requests of resuming international flights via establishment of “bilateral bubbles” to facilitate flights between India-France, India-Germany, India-U.K and India-U.S., since these are the countries which have not witnessed diminished travel demands. On the domestic front, the government has permitted airlines to raise their passenger capacity to 45 percent of what they used to carry in the pre pandemic times.
The present scenario is slowly showing signs of normalcy returning in the travel scenes, but it is just the superficial idea of resumption. In view of the pandemic, flying will not remain the same. WIth maximum airlines operating on restricted capacity, stringent safety norms and massively furloughed crew, the times to come are set to unfurl some massive changes in the air travel policies. The airline industry is still not clear about the big picture regarding travel and tourism for the next two years or so and people are mired in a similar dilemma. Notwithstanding the air of uncertainty, the skies have considerably opened up for flight and countries are slowly, but cautiously inching towards domestic and cross-border connectivity once again.