Thursday, December 01, 2022


When masks cover the spirit of flying

The Government of India has cancelled Air Suvidha forms for international passengers thus relieving them of a major pain, writes Reena Rahman

By Reena Rahman

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Never be pessimistic! See everything in a positive light!

So let’s begin with the good news for sure. The Government of India has cancelled Air Suvidha forms for international passengers thus relieving them of a major pain. As the world has learned to live with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has assumed the garb of endemic globally, there is no meaning in pressing the panic button, although we have to be highly cautious.

So, the decision of the India Government to withdraw Air Suvidha, the contactless solution by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Health Family Welfare, is a great relief, because this self-declaration form for the International arriving passengers was a real headache.

But there are many questions that remain unanswered. What about the children who have not yet been vaccinated? Even now, children above five years who have not yet taken the vaccine have to undergo the mandatory PCR test. It is a dampener for sure.

As part of introducing laxer rules in the matter, India has also made the use of masks and face covers optional during international and domestic flights. Now there will neither be a fine nor a penalty for not wearing a face mask during a flight. According to the fresh guideline by the government, “In line with the government of India’s policy of graded approach of COVID-19 management response, the in-flight announcements henceforth may only mention that in view of the threat posed by COVID-19, all passengers should preferably use mask/face covers.”

However, it seems some of the Indian carriers are still flying in the age of panic, asking fellow passengers to wear masks. What makes things a bit too embarrassing is that in many parts of the world, the relaxations have been in effect for a long while. In Oman, all precautionary safety measures and procedures in place at airports across the country were lifted in May, and international travellers no longer need to register through the eMushrif portal or undertake a PCR test before or upon arrival in the country. However, the revised and laxer rules have yet to have a stronghold in India, and this would cause tension for arriving international passengers.

Since the tourist season is here, and many international visitors are expected to land in India for a year-end vacation, the government should consider lifting all the restrictions and should open the skies to give a fillip to the tourism industry, which is back to the pre-COVID scenario globally.

While many such restrictions are still in place in countries like India, serving alcohol onboard international flights has become abnormally normal everywhere.

Being an airline professional and a frequent flier I have personally faced many embarrassing situations due to the drunken behavior of some passengers. Why should passengers be given booze during an international trip? I am yet to understand the reason, though there are justifications aplenty by those who support the spirit onboard. Why should such a privilege only be given to international passengers when it is a crime to drink alcohol onboard domestic flights?

There are many problems associated with drinking. First of all, how will somebody sitting near the emergency exit handle an emergency situation after having a couple of drinks? While it is considered an offence while on board a train, bus, or other modes of public transport, why it is a privilege for air passengers? I am totally confused.

Further, the nuisance caused by the passengers who get drunk in the security hold area, after the check-in and security check process, is also a headache for many, including the airline staff.

Sorry, I am not assuming a moral high ground in matters of personal liberty. However, my question is this: If you are concerned about safety, how do you justify drinking onboard, when it can cause discomfort and tension among others? We have enough cases of drunken behavior leading to numerous problems, but in some way or another, it ends up being justified. International passengers are more equal than domestic passengers when it comes to such privileges that go against the spirit of flying, I suppose!