India’s Civil Aviation Minister Says Passenger Face Shields May Be New Normal

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Face shields could be a part of your next travel checklist. In a tweet by India’s Civil Aviation Minister, passengers are seen on one of India’s repatriation flights wearing face shields and masks. The minister has said that this could be part of the new normal once flying resumes. With domestic flights expected to return soon, could we see these drastic protective measures?

Air India Wuhan Evacuation Flight
Domestic flights may be starting soon in India, but we could see measures taken on repatriation flights continue. Photo: Getty Images

Face shields to be mandatory on flights?

India is currently operating dozens of repatriation flights to bring back Indians stranded all over the world. Onboard these flights, it seems passengers are all given face shields and masks, while the cabin crew wears full PPE. While these measures are surprising, they could show us what flying could look like in the near future.

Face shields are commonly employed by frontline workers as a barrier against the virus. These shields are also relatively easy to manufacture, making them an effective tool to protect against the virus. However, ensuring that every passenger is wearing a face shield would likely need thousands of shields a day and raises questions about whether airlines or passengers are liable to provide these.

It is also to be noted that repatriation flights don’t seem to be enforcing one-seat social distancing. Face shields could be looked at as an alternative to blocking out the middle seat, allowing airlines to sell all seats without compromising passenger safety.

The new normal?

While flying could resume in the coming weeks, the experience will be very different for anyone traveling. Passengers can expect social distancing at airports, closure of most airport amenities such as restaurants and lounges, and little to no service on board the flight. However, airlines have pushed back on plans to leave the middle seat empty, citing profitability and high fares due to a lack of capacity.

Indian Airlines
Flying will very different once the ban is lifted. Photo: Getty Images

The flight ban is still in force in India, meaning all domestic and international passenger flights are banned. This ban has been in place since late March, forcing airlines to take extreme measures to survive. The government is expected to put out guidelines for flying post-pandemic soon, which will offer a lot more clarity on measures to be taken.

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The #resumedomesticflights has also become popular on Twitter in the last few days. People stuck all around the country are using the hashtag to share their stories of the lockdown and requesting the government to resume flights, showing the need for domestic flights.

Overall

While these measures do seem surprising, they will be much-needed to prevent air travel from becoming a virus hub. Face shields are a relatively inexpensive way to protect travelers, though this might be logistically difficult due to scale. The next few weeks will give us a lot more clarity on when flights can begin and what rules will be in place.

What do you think of face shields on board flights? Is such a plan feasible? Let us know in the comments below.

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