Covid-19 busted your vacation? Here's how safe air travel in India is at the moment

Here is a comprehensive list of safety measures undertaken by airports and airlines as air travel in India limps back to normalcy

Covid-19 busted your vacation? Here's how safe air travel in India is at the moment
Contactless boarding at Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport. Image courtesy: Youtube

Rising Covid-19 cases might have forced many of us to cancel travel plans. If you are one amongst them, put your worries away as airports and airlines have undertaken a slew of measures to keep a check on the spread of the deadly virus.

Passenger flight operations in the country remained closed for about two months, after which they were resumed in a graded manner. Non-scheduled international passenger flights under air bubble agreements and Vande Bharat Mission and domestic flights are operating. The aviation sector is limping back to normalcy, but the number still continues to remain low as people are sceptical about their safety.

Plane Vanilla spoke to the stakeholders to know how safety is being ensured at highly crowded airports in the country. Here are some of the safety measures being undertaken:

1. International passengers with connecting flights can avail testing facilities at airports before travelling ahead to their final destinations. According to the government mandate, international passengers, who are transiting via Delhi, can take domestic flights only with an RT-PCR covid negative certificate. To facilitate the transit of passengers with domestic connections, the Delhi Airport has now introduced a covid Test Centre and Lounge.

Covid-19 test centre and lounge for performing RT-PCR test for International passengers flying down to #DelhiAirport. Know more at https://t.co/jK1QQm3UkJ pic.twitter.com/vIZ7EwQWZY

— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) September 21, 2020

The Mumbai Airport, on the other hand, has set up a covid-testing facility for all arriving passengers, not just international transit passengers. 

2. To make the immigration process smoother and faster for the arriving passengers from international destinations, protective glass shields have been erected at each immigration counter so that two people can safely complete their immigration process while maintaining social distancing norms. A total of 150 protective shields have been placed on arrival and departure areas.

3. Adequate seating arrangements have been made everywhere inside terminals, including arrival and departure areas, to ensure that social distancing norms are not compromised. Special arrangements have been made to ensure that social distancing is maintained while flyers queue up to complete the departure and arrival formalities.

Ensuring safety right from the beginning! #FlySafe pic.twitter.com/YD5ZmZc9kf

— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) September 4, 2020

4. Computerised camera-based thermal scanners have been installed at arrival and departure gates to ensure that each passenger's body temperature is measured in real-time. The scanners capture passengers’ body temperature automatically as they pass through the gates.

5. To encourage compliance of social distancing norms at airports, the authorities have deployed additional queue managers at the kerbside (city side), check-in halls, security check areas and boarding gates, with social distancing marks/reminders.

6. The Delhi airport has put visually impactful designs at various places. For instance, signage in coloured tape has been placed at various standpoints and staggered seating arrangements have been implemented, with marks on alternate chairs to maintain gaps.

Also read: India begins Covid-19 testing at airport for incoming passengers

7. At the Delhi airport, deep cleaning is conducted every day at its vast premise of over 6 lakh square metres. A team of 500 professionals has been deployed to carry out disinfection drives every hour.

8. Regular sanitisation of high contact surfaces, such as desks, chairs, elevators, railings, CUSS, trolleys, handles, trays, baggage belts, etc inside the terminals has been organised. Apart from these, washrooms are sanitised every hour.

9. Facilities have been set up to disinfect all the trolleys using disinfectants and trays using ultraviolet (UV) rays before the passengers use them. They are the first touchpoints at the airport for the passengers. The used trolleys and trays are passed one after another, and each of them will take approximately five seconds to come out virus-free.

Contactless sanitisers have been installed at #DelhiAirport for passenger safety and convenience.​ #FlySafe pic.twitter.com/P8FTbX8AvE

— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) August 24, 2020

10. At Delhi’s Terminal 3, a UV tunnel that helps in the disinfection of passenger bags has been installed. The prototype has been installed in the baggage belt area.

11. Live CCTV feed of the UV-scanning process mounted at baggage reclaim halls allows the passengers to see the disinfection process, in which high-intensity UV lamps are being used for online disinfection of bags.

We have just relocated UV baggage santisation tunnel at the T3 departure forecourt to inline baggage system for your convenience. pic.twitter.com/EKOeHtdnZb

— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) July 30, 2020

12. To enhance passenger safety and comply with Covid-19 safety measures, mobile disinfecting towers have been developed and provided at airports to disinfect various locations of terminal buildings. These moveable towers will be placed in properly cordoned areas of terminals, where UV lamps will be operated and disinfection will be done in particular areas. Once the disinfection is completed, the UV power will be switched off and the towers will manually be relocated to other areas for a similar process.

Also read: As Covid-19 induces contactless travel, advance scanners to fight fraud

13. Handheld disinfection torches are also available at airports to disinfect desktops, laptops and other electronic devices. These are germicidal lamps that produce UV light. This short-wave UV light disrupts DNA-based paring, causing the formation of pyrimidine dimers and leads to the inactivation of bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

All flight operations & medical screening at T3 international arrivals are happening smoothly. Here are some of the latest images. @HardeepSPuri @MoCA_GoI pic.twitter.com/rptQ1ETEJN

— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) July 24, 2020

14. As shoes can also be potential carriers of coronavirus, shoe sanitiser mats have been placed at strategic places. These mats are soaked with a chemical that disinfects the shoes of the passengers.

15. Besides, sensor-based taps in passenger washrooms, foot-operated sanitiser dispensers, sensor-based drinking water and paddle-operated drinking water fountains have been installed for contact-less usage.

16. About 336 automatic hand sanitiser dispensers, which are battery- or electric-operated, are in the process of being strategically deployed at airport terminals so that regular sanitising can be encouraged among the passengers.

17. Contactless check-in and baggage drop have been introduced. Baggage tags can be printed at self-service kiosks and boarding details can be scanned using QR codes and smartphones without needing to touch the kiosk screen. Printed boarding passes are scanned at the gate by passengers themselves. Magnification glasses help security personnel inspect ID details of the passengers. They do so from behind glass barriers. 

The Kempegowda International Airport at Bengaluru recently released a video on how the boarding process has been made contactless.

18. The ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) had made web check-ins mandatory. A self-declaration and Aarogya Setu app status need to be obtained from the passenger to ensure that he/she is free of Covid-19.  

Sanitisation of taxis

1. The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) has provided a guideline to all the authorised taxi services operating to and from the Delhi Airport. These taxi operators have been mandated to implement precautionary measures to quell safety fears among the passengers.

2. Each car is thoroughly sanitised from inside and outside before every passenger trip from the Delhi airport.

3. The Delhi airport has deployed trained staff at the airport for performing thermal screening of the drivers.

4. Every taxi driver has to undergo mandatory thermal screening. In case of any abnormality in body temperature, the driver has to refrain from driving the vehicle and have been advised to meet the airport health officials for the next steps.

5. Further, the drivers and the passengers have been asked to strictly adhere to the government’s guidelines by wearing hand gloves and face masks while on the trip.

6. The taxi drivers have also been instructed to keep sanitisers in their cars for customers’ usage.

7. A dedicated area has been set up at the entry point of the multi-level car parking (MLCP) for each operator to conduct car sanitisation thoroughly from inside and outside.

8. The sanitisation personnel use a specially developed fumigation machine to spray disinfectants inside the vehicle. This neutralises any virus inside the vehicle. Once the spraying is done, the vehicle is left idle for two minutes for effectively eliminating viruses and other germs.

9. After the completion of the internal disinfection process, the outer body of each vehicle is properly sanitised through disinfecting sanitiser spray treatment. The spraying is done on the entire body of the vehicle to make it completely sanitised for the use of humans.

10. Special emphasis is given to sanitise the touchpoints of each vehicle. This includes sterilisation of the vehicle’s door latches, the interior of the vehicle, for instance, the doors, glove box, dashboard, seats, seat gloves, steering wheels, gear lever, headrests and AC vents/buttons among others. Also, the taxi drivers have been instructed to spray high touch points with sanitiser after every trip.

11. Once the three-pronged sanitisation process is completed, health advisory stickers are displayed inside the taxis plying from airport premises. This advisory is placed on each car post sanitisation.