Photo is for illustrative purposes.
In a separate development, a long-cherished demand of the Kerala diaspora and the business community turned into a reality when an Air India non-stop flight from London landed on Friday night.
The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) welcomed the AI 1186 aircraft with a water salute.
An order issued by Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary in the Ministry, directed airlines to resume meal services on domestic flights with immediate effect. This supercedes the Ministry’s order since May 21 that "airlines shall not provide meal services on board."
The ban had put arriving international passengers on flights repatriating Indians from the Gulf and other airports worldwide to considerable inconvenience. Because meals were scarce on those flights, and because most eating facilities at airports in India have been closed since the lockdown since March to contain coronavirus, passengers often had to go hungry if they were connecting to domestic destinations after arriving at international airports.
This had complicated travel in particular for accompanying children and for passengers with co-morbidities which made them vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. Although exceptions were made on health grounds, implementing those exceptions was not easy on most Indian carriers for operational reasons.
The Joint Secretary’s latest order will be implemented with a range of conditions. Only disposable trays, cutlery and crockery will be allowed for in-flight meal services. Airline crews are required to wear new sets of protective gear on their hands before each meal or beverage service.
In-flight entertainment will be made available on domestic flights with severe restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.
As part of promoting direct connectivity to Europe, CIAL has decided to waive off entire landing fee for airlines operating direct European services to Kochi.
The decision will give an instant advantage to the national carrier as it has scheduled direct London-Kochi flight till Sept.27.
The Air India flight from London's Heathrow Airport (LHR) landed at Kochi on Friday with 130 passengers on board.
A 'follow me' vehicle service was facilitated by CIAL and as the aircraft entered the taxiway link, the fire tenders of CIAL Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting team gave a water salute.
The Air India flight departed to London with 229 passengers.
WAM / IANS
"However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis," the Directorate General of Civil Aviation circular read.
So far the group has arranged about a dozen flights to various Indian cities including Gaya, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jaipur and Kolkata. Latest flight was operated on Saturday to Gaya in Bihar.
"It is not just a mission that brought back stranded and distressed citizens from around the world, but Vande Bharat has been a mission of hope and happiness, of letting people know that they will not be left behind even in the most testing times," Puri said.
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