India relaxes domestic flight operations; meals to be served onboard

(FILE) Police personnel check the details of Indian nationals returning from Sharjah in Amritsar on July 15, 2020. NARINDER NANU / AFP

India announced wide-ranging relaxations in the operations of domestic flight services, which will bring relief to passengers arriving from Gulf airports and on long-haul international flights.

An order issued on Saturday by the country's Ministry of Civil Aviation directed airlines to resume meal services on domestic flights with immediate effect.

It super cedes a previous May 21 order which banned meal services onboard all airlines.

The ban had put arriving international passengers on flights repatriating Indians from the Gulf and other airports worldwide to considerable inconvenience.

As meals were scarce on those flights, and because most eating facilities at airports in India have been closed since the lockdown since March to contain coronavirus, passengers often had to go hungry if they were connecting to domestic destinations after arriving at international airports.

This had complicated travel, in particular, for accompanying children and for passengers with co-morbidities which made them vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.

Although exceptions were made on health grounds, implementing those exceptions was not easy on most Indian carriers for operational reasons.

The latest order will be implemented with a range of conditions.

Only disposable trays, cutlery and crockery will be allowed for in-flight meal services.

Airline crews are required to wear new sets of protective gear on their hands before each meal or beverage service.

In-flight entertainment will be made available on domestic flights with severe restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

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