Civil Aviation

COVID-19: India travel, aviation sectors discuss confidence-building

New Delhi: The US-India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP) today hosted a discussion with various companies from the Indian aviation and hospitality sector to deliberate on measures that can be taken to rebuild confidence and trust in air travel, post the COVID-19.

The event, in association with Boeing Co., Pratt & Whitney, and other industry leading companies, on ‘Restoring Confidence in Air Travel‘ saw participation from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Tourism, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Authority of India (AAI), Incheon International Airport, GMR Airports, IndiGo, Marriott International, and the Taj Hotels.

The aviation and hospitality industries shared the initiatives that they are taking to minimise the risk of virus transmission and layers of protection being built into every aspect of travel. This includes contact-less boarding experience for passengers, cleaning and disinfecting practices in an aircraft, minimising contaminants from spreading throughout the aircraft cabin through the careful design of the cabin air system and encouraging passengers to wear face coverings.

“The COVID-19 pandemic requires a joint effort to minimize air travel health risks, and restore public confidence in travel and aviation. As air travel resumes and restrictions ease, the industry needs to partner and collaborate to develop new solutions, build on the existing best practices, and provide a safe travel experience to travellers. The safety and well-being of travellers, passengers and industry employees is a top priority for ACP and its members,” said US-India Aviation Cooperation Program director Sandeep Bahl said.

Boeing recently announced its Confident Travel Initiative, where its team of experts will work with airlines, global regulators, industry stakeholders, flying passengers, infectious disease experts and behavioural specialists to establish industry-recognised safety recommendations.

The team is also advising operators on existing, EPA-approved disinfectants that are compatible with airplane flight decks and cabins and testing other sanitizers. Boeing airplanes utilise High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that trap 99.9+ percent of particulates — including bacteria and viruses from recirculated air and prevents them from re-circulating back to the cabin.

Boeing is also focusing on longer-lead items that will serve as additional layers of protection to what’s already in place today. This includes existing UV technology and how it might be used to sanitize the flight deck, off the shelf anti-microbial coatings that provide a hostile environment for viruses and bacteria once it’s sprayed on surfaces and self-disinfecting airplane lavatory.

Boeing India’s Salil Gupte

“We are partnering with airlines, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the industry to create a multi-layered approach focused on keeping passengers and airline crews healthy. Layered protection requires a system-wide approach extending beyond the airplane to the full travel experience. Having consistent, industry-recognized safety standards and protocols will be an important part of recovery as travel resumes,” Boeing India president Salil Gupte said, stressing improved air travel health measures as the need of the hour.

Pratt & Whitney India’s Ashmita Sethi

“As air travel recovers from the Covid-19 impact, innovation and coordination between the industry and government will be key to restoring passenger confidence. Pratt & Whitney has been supporting its customers in India to meet the demands of the world’s fastest growing aviation market. In fact, even during the recent pause in air travel due to the extended lockdown, we have continued to work closely with our airline customers – bringing in special charters to upgrade fleets, improving quick-turn MRO capabilities and reducing turn-around times – thereby ensuring that airlines are ready for a well-supported return to demand,” UTC India Pratt & Whitney president and country head Ashmita Sethi said, emphasising the need for industry alignment.

During the webinar, representatives from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Tourism and global aviation bodies like the ICAO and IATA stressed on the importance of a collaborative and globally co-ordinated approach towards increasing consumer confidence and demand.

“We continue to rigorously follow recommendations and measures by our industry, international council, health and safety organizations and other stakeholders to restore confidence in air travel for our people in India,” India Ministry of Civil Aviation Joint Secretary Usha Padhee. “The ACP webinar discussion today demonstrates that collaborative approach between all stakeholders is the way to restore the confidence to bring air travel back.”

“Our focus is to bring back the vibrancy in India’s tourism sector and to collaborate with the travel trade for achieving the same,” India Ministry of Tourism Joint Director General Meenakshi Mehta said.

“The restart of aviation and future resilience can be achieved by building confidence in travelling public by harmonized internationally bench-marked public health measures, and collective efforts by stakeholders. Congratulations to ACP for taking this step,” ICAO India representative Dr Shefali Juneja said.

“All of us across the travel and tourism value chain face an uphill challenge if our customers are not traveling. We need to work together to restore the confidence about traveling. It is important for harmonization of processes among all stake holders, and to recognize aviation’s role in economic growth, job creation, delivery of goods and services, and global connectivity,” IATA India country director Amitabh Khosla said.

Discussions during the webinar also highlighted the importance of seamless coordination between airports, airlines and other stakeholders in the travel value chain, as customers navigate the ‘new normal’ of flying.

“As the largest airline in India, IndiGo has developed our ‘lean, clean flying machine’ to help customers build confidence that travelling through the airports and on our aircraft will not put them at risk at all,” IndiGo Chief Commercial Officer William Boulter said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis for the aviation industry. The recovery from this crisis can happen only by restoring public confidence in the health and safety of flying. The new mitigation measures introduced at airports with respect to sanitisation, cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing, as well as health screening procedures on departure and arrival have significantly reposed confidence amongst the flyers, which is evident from the increasing number of air travellers,” Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) CEO Videh Kumar Jaipuriar said.

“At Delhi Airport, we have set up UV tunnels to sanitize baggage, and baggage trolleys, installed highly efficient HEPA filters to trap and flush out harmful particles such as pollen and dust mites, introduced contact-less food ordering and delivery system among others, which have been highly appreciated by the people at large and boosted passenger confidence to a large extent.”

“Aviation is one of the safest mode of transport, and passenger confidence in air travel needs to be reinforced. India has lifted restrictions on domestic air travel and international air travel is expected to resume soon. We are very optimistic that the industry will bounce back and the new normal is here to stay. The collaborative efforts of all stakeholders of the aviation industry in making the passenger journey safe to overcome the turbulent times is commendable,” GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL) CEO Pradeep Panicker said.

The industry agreed to work together to establish industry-recognized safety recommendations and create awareness on the measures they are taking to reduce the risk of transmission in transit in an aircraft, airports or hotels.

NOTE: The US-India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP) is a unique bilateral public-private partnership launched in 2007 between the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the US Department of Commerce and State and US aviation companies. It has been established to provide a forum for unified communication between the Government of India and US public and private sector entities in India.

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