‘I travelled back home during a pandemic’: Indian Domestic Flight ResumptionMay 30, 2020 14:54
(Image source from: mangalorean.com)
India has been on a lockdown since March 25, 2020, cancelling all the international and domestic flight movements along with the railways as well. This step came as a way to contain the spread of the virus and ensure that India doesn’t experience what some of the first world countries have been experiencing.
But, with things gradually getting back to normal and the lockdown restrictions easing gradually, the Aviation Ministry of India resumed their domestic flight operations again from May 25, 2020.
And, I decided to fly back home during a pandemic.
A quick disclaimer
Before I share the whole experience and walk you through the steps and the insights that you need to keep in mind, know for a fact that I know my privilege. I know that I can afford the tickets to fly out anytime I want.
This article is not meant to brag. This article is not meant to “not sympathise” with the condition of the migrant workers and the needy people. This article is meant for information purposes only.
Another important thing is that the discourse and the information shared here is viable for Hyderabad to Kolkata. Operations and availabilities are different in different state airports, so keep that into consideration.
So, with the coronavirus pandemic and Amphan hitting one after the other, my parents wanted me back home (as any parent would). So, the moment the domestic flights resumed, I knew I had to book the tickets, fly back home and stay with them for some time.
So, I did that.
I booked the Air Asia flight tickets for May 30, 2020. You might think, “Why Air Asia?”
Well, the timings of the flight from Hyderabad to Kolkata was very suitable. It was supposed to take off at 10:50 am from Hyderabad and reach Kolkata by 1 pm.
But, the flight got cancelled on May 28 because of unprecedented reasons.
With no way out, I had to rebook a flight for the next day, which was May 29.
I booked an Air India flight ticket for May 29 which was scheduled to take off at 6 in the morning. This meant that I had to reach the airport the night before and wait there the whole night.
That’s what I did.
So, when it comes to flight tickets, I would suggest you book reliable and big “brand” flights like Air India and Indigo which have lesser chances of getting cancelled two days before your departure.
That said, the next is the breakdown of:
- What you need to do before going to the airport?
- What you need to do at the airport?
- What you need to do once you land at your destination airport?
- Precautionary steps for self isolation
Let me break these four steps down to better understanding.
What you need to do before going to the airport?
Once you are done booking the tickets, there are a few things that you need to do before you reach the airport.
“No passengers would be allowed without a boarding pass”
This was what was written in front of the gates of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad.
So, a few reminders for you.
- Once you are done booking the tickets, check the guidelines for the web check-in of the flight you have booked the tickets for
- Web check-in is MANDATORY. Having an e-boarding pass is MANDATORY
- Download the Aarogya Setu application and ensure that “You are safe”
- Wear a mask and carry your own sanitiser
- Entry inside the airport is only allowed 4 hours before the boarding, so plan accordingly. In case you come early, you will have to sit outside the airport till its time
P.S: In case you are booking Air India flights, their interface is very complicated and can end up causing issues with the web check in and e-boarding pass. You can reach the airport, go to the help desk at the airport and get your boarding pass directly in case you didn’t get it on email.
There are some self check-in kiosks in the Hyderabad airport where you have to download a self scanner application and follow the process as mentioned to get your boarding pass. I wouldn’t suggest that because most of the time, it doesn’t work.
What you need to do at the airport?
Once it is around 4 hours before your boarding time, the authorities will ask you to form a queue following the social distancing norms.
Wear your masks at all times during the process. Wear gloves, if you have a habit of touching your face every now and then.
- The authorities will check your temperature first. Once it comes clear, you will be asked to show the e-ticket or the e-boarding pass along with your status in the Aarogya Setu app.
- If everything is safe and clear, you are allowed to go inside the airport.
- You need a boarding pass for entry into the airport, so make sure you either have it in your mobile as the e-boarding pass or you have it printed out or you can collect it from the help desk at the airport too.
- Keep a valid ID card along with the boarding pass and show it to the authorities for entry into the airport
- If you have check-in luggage, you can either print out the baggage tag onto your luggage or write the name, PNR number, flight number and such details on an A4 size paper and affix it on the luggage. Once you enter the airport, you can drop off the luggage at the check-in counters
- Once done, you need to proceed on to the security check
- Start by scanning your boarding pass under the scanner at the entry of the security check
- Pick out a tray and sort out your essentials on the tray, much like how you would normally do during a security check
- Walk out and collect your essentials and sanitise your hands immediately
- Once you are done with the security check, you can go to the assigned gate and wait there till the boarding starts
P.S: During boarding, the authorities will ask for a filled out self declaration form that you need to submit. So, you can either fill it or carry it with you from home or you can get some forms at the airport before boarding and fill and submit it then and there. It’s not a hassle.
You also get a package of a mask, sanitisers and visor from the airlines that you need to wear and use during the ride. The visor gets fogged up though, so keep that in mind.
What you need to do once you land at your destination airport?
Now is the time for all the heart palpitations (Just Kidding!).
Things get easier from here.
- Once you have landed, you will be given another self declaration form by the cabin crew that you need to fill up and submit once you reach the destination airport
- In Kolkata, once you have collected your baggage and submitted the self declaration form, the next thing to do is stand in queue to get your temperature checked
- With the temperature checked and sorted, the next thing that needs to be done is fill in and submit yet another one of the self declaration form
- Then, you are a free bird.
- Book a taxi and go home.
But, self isolate.
Also, remember that the quarantine instructions and regulations are different in different states. So, make sure that you read through the state guidelines before booking the tickets.
Precautionary steps for self-isolation
Not having a fever at the airport doesn’t make you a safe person to be around your family right away.
So, self isolation is often a better option. If you have a family like mine who is always hesitant about it and saying “Nothing will happen”, you need to set their facts straight.
- For self isolation, make sure you are staying away from there and not coming in close proximity.
- Keep an eye out on your health
- Drink warm liquids and drink water to keep yourself hydrated all the time
- In case you are eating from common dishes, clean them yourself
- Wash your own clothes and just maintain proper hygiene. It is just as simple
Follow these for a minimum of 7 days.
I had to travel because of my family and to be honest, I would do it again. But, in case you don’t have emergencies and you can stay where you are, avoid travelling right now.
Remember that things are not reopening because it’s safe, they are reopening because of the economy.
By Somapika Dutta