Passengers should go through quarantine regulations of a state before they board a flight, said Sudhakara Reddy, founder and president of Air Passengers Association of India in an interview with BOOM. This is following adverse reactions on social media from frustrated passengers who realise after they land at their destination about quarantine rules, upsetting their travel schedule.
"For example, Indigo Airlines lists quarantine rules of every state on their website. Study the rules properly and then decide whether you want to travel with those regulations in place or not," Reddy said.
Reddy gives an example to illustrate this. "The flights from USA and Canada flights from Vande Bharat Mission are landing in Delhi. Here you have to undergo 7 days of institutional quarantine and 7 days of home quarantine. Then if your ultimate quarantine is a state Bengaluru, or Hyderabad or Chennai which has its own quarantine SOPs, you have to undergo 14 days of quarantine again. We're asking the Minister of Health to look into this because going through quarantine twice is not fair for the passengers," he said.
When domestic travel restarted in India on May 25, it got off to a rocky start with many flights being cancelled in the first few days. Adding to the frustration of cancelled flights, different states had issued different guidelines of quarantine for arriving passengers.
For example in Punjab, all incoming passengers will be put in home quarantine for 14 days.
Karnataka has different rules and has made 7 days of institutional quarantine mandatory for incoming passengers from high risk states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. If the person is tested COVID-19 negative, then the next seven days can be spent in-home quarantine.
At this point, domestic airlines have been flying for 18 days post lockdown. The Minister of Civil Aviation revealed on 11 June they had seen over 697 flights take off and land across the country, ferrying 65,339 passengers in all.
With so many rules and regulations in place, Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India says passengers are only travelling on a need based purpose because of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are going back home or getting back to wherever they wanted which they couldn't during the lockdown. "There will be a lull in the business after everyone reaches where they wanted," she said.
Even if passengers want to travel, with quarantine guidelines and the number of COVID-19 cases increasing each day, flights have been getting cancelled. For a travel industry already hit by COVID19, this is proving to be tough to manage.
"Most things have become reasonably sorted out. However, load factors are really low. Flights to destinations, like from Mumbai to Varanasi costs about 41,000 because there are no direct flights. There is no point in saying we are monitoring minimum and maximum fare," said Reddy.
With flight cancellations, comes the question of refunds. Airlines are refusing to give refunds for flights that are cancelled, instead offering only `credit shells.'
But Jyoti Mayal says that they're trying to ask the Ministry of Civil Aviation to intervene.
"We're still trying to come up with a solution for aviation. The industry doesn't realise that the money that gets stuck is from the pockets of the travel agents or the passengers. We've become the financers of the airlines. We've been asking the Ministry to intervene with the refund process and now some airlines are giving us refunds," she said.
Mayal also thinks its important to give travel agents an opportunity to book flights for domestic travel and the Vande Bharat mission. "Why are we being denied the opportunity to fill seats. We are their partners," she said.
However, Reddy gives 2 very essential pointers for passengers who want to travel in the future before the pandemic ends.
-Travel as light as possible
-Read the quarantine regulations properly. You should know what you're getting into.
Catch the full interview on YouTube or watch the interview here.