Domestic flights of less than two hours of duration may not serve in-flight meals, the civil aviation ministry announced on Monday, as India tries to contain the record surge in the number of coronavirus cases.
The ban will be effective from Thursday, the ministry said in an order, saying it would review the on-board meal services in domestic flights due to the “the increasing threat of COVID-19 and its variants”.
Since scheduled domestic flights were resumed on May 25 following their shutdown after the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the ministry allowed in-flights meals under certain conditions: Now, these may only be served in flights over two hours in length, which can include only pre-packed snacks, meals and pre-packed beverages. Servicing between seats should staggered “among the adjacent seats as far as possible” the ministry said.
India has surpassed Brazil to record the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases at 1,35,27,717, as a record 1,68,912 new infections were reported on Monday. The active cases have surpassed the 12-lakh mark, while the toll increased to 1,70,179 with 904 more deaths, the highest since October 18.
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.
Domestic passenger traffic in the previous fiscal ending on March 31, 2021, was at a 10-year-low due to the pandemic-effect, at around 53.4 million. Traffic in March, at 77-78 lakh, was slightly higher than what it was the previous year, a 62 per cent decline compared to the fiscal ended on March 31, 2020, according to a report by ratings agency ICRA.