There will be no meals service on flights below 2 hours of flying time the government said amid a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases that several Indian states have recorded over the last few days.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) in an Office Memorandum issued by joint secretary Usha Padhee to update existing guidelines said that airlines, operating flights on domestic sectors may provide meals services on board, where in the flight duration in two hours or more, following the emended guidelines issued by the ministry.
Airlines may serve pre-packed snacks, meals, pre-packed beverages as the policy of the airlines, where the duration is two hours or more subject to the below conditions MoCA said:
- That in all classes, tray set-up, plates and cutlery will be completely disposable with no re-use or cleaned or disinfected rotables will be used.
- Used disposable trays, crockeries, cutleries shall not be re-used. Used rotables shall be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before reuse.
- In all classes, tea, coffee, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage services will be in disposable cans, containers, bottles, glasses. There will be no pouring service and beverages will be served in single use disposable units.
- All used disposable and rotable meal trays, plates, cutlery, beverages, bottles, cans, glasses will be disposed off in the trash bags, carts by the crew at the end of the meal service.
- The passengers would be informed of the above practices for strict compliance before the start of catering services by way of passenger announcements.
- The servicing of inflight meals to be staggered among the adjacent seats as far as possible.
The new guidelines industry sources said would prove to be a demand dampener though also help protect fliers and build confidence. “This ban on in-flight meals on short-haul sectors is another source of revenue gone for the airlines,” an official said.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had reportedly raised objections on passengers removing their masks while having their meals on-board. Industry veteran Sanjiv Kapoor, formerly chief strategy and commercial officer at Vistara, and former chief operating officer at SpiceJet took to Twitter to thank ICMR.
“Good move, one I have been advocating for flights < 3 to 4 hours of flying time. The revenue loss will be a small sacrifice relative to reduction of COVID risk. A huge loophole will finally be plugged. For longer flights, meals can be staggered so not all masks off at the same time,” he said.