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Government of India bans meals onboard domestic flights

Indian Government has banned meals onboard domestic flights in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation has directed airlines to stop serving meals on domestic flights under two hours. The decision comes amid concerns that passengers removing their masks onboard flights will increase the spread of the virus.

Ban on meals on flights under two hours

Effective 15th April,2021, Indian airlines will not be permitted to serve food and beverage on domestic flights with a duration of less than two hours. For all international flights and domestic flights of longer than two hours, airlines will still be able to serve meals, snacks and refreshments, subject to strict guidelines.

These guidelines are:

  • Trays, plates and cutlery must be completely disposable.
  • Used trays, plates and cutlery shall not be re-used.
  • All beverages will be served in single-use disposable units.
  • Crew must wear a fresh set of gloves for each meal/beverage service.
  • Staggered service of food among adjacent seats as far as possible.

The directive from the Ministry of Civil Aviation says:

Airlines are permitted to serve only pre-packed snacks, meals and pre-packed beverages on flights that have a duration of more than two hours. The servicing of in-flight meals must be staggered “among the adjacent seats as far as possible.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation tweeted:

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 reusable meal trays/plates/cutlery will be disposed of in the trash bags/carts by the crew. At the end of the meal service. The crew shall wear a fresh set of gloves for every meal beverage service.

After initially banning meals and refreshments at the beginning of the pandemic, India allowed airlines to resume serving meals in August.

But with India now experiencing its worst wave of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, authorities have decided in-flight meals pose a major risk.

Sanjiv Kapoor, Former Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer, Vistara, tweeted:

The revenue loss will be a small sacrifice relative to the reduction of COVID risk. A huge loophole will finally be plugged. For longer flights, meals can be staggered so not all masks are off at the same time.

Thailand also adopts a similar approach

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has implemented a similar policy, banning all in-flight meals on domestic flights. Thailand’s new directive came into force today (April 13th) and enforces a range of restrictions, including a ban on reading materials and duty-free sales.

Reading materials like newspapers, magazines, or pamphlets will no longer be distributed onboard flights, other than materials related to safety practices. Passengers will not be allowed to eat or drink their own food and beverages on flights either. Souvenirs and duty-free products will also no longer be on sale in-flight.

Airlines will need to follow other guidelines under the new order, including installing infrared thermal scanners for passengers and staff and enforcing mask-wearing at all times. Additionally, on flights longer than 90 minutes, airlines must reserve the last two rows of seating to quarantine any passengers suspected of having the virus.

Meanwhile, Thailand has unveiled a roadmap to reopen some destinations for vaccinated tourists.

What do you think of India’s ban on onboard meals? Let me know in the comments section below.

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