KLM is cutting the time its crew spends in India during layovers. Instead of spending 48 hours on the ground, crews will turn around in 24 hours instead. The decision to halve the layover time comes as foreign airlines avoid leaving their crew in India due to the lack of healthcare infrastructure available.
According to the Times of India, KLM has halved the amount of time its crews spend in India on layovers. The carrier currently operates seven weekly passenger flights, four from New Delhi and three from Mumbai, and one weekly cargo-only service to Mumbai. From May 5th onwards, crews on all these routes will not spend more than 24 hours on the ground.
KLM has also shifted all layovers from the worst-hit capital of Delhi to Mumbai instead, keeping crew onboard during the connecting flight between the cities. Once they arrive in Mumbai, crews are directly escorted to a nearby hotel and cannot leave until the next flight. This enables crews to avoid undergoing an RT-PCR test in India.
India is currently the global COVID-19 hotspot and poses a huge risk to anyone entering the country at this time. Some have said that crews are asking to be exempt from the RT-PCR requirements as they do not want to test positive in India and risk being quarantined for 14 days. Moreover, the lack of available medical facilities has also increased the risk for any crews being quarantined in India.
Not the only one
KLM is far from the only airline looking to reduce its staff’s time in the country. Lufthansa has chosen to avoid crew layovers in India altogether and instead set up a temporary crew base in Dubai. This means all crew changes on India inbound and outbound flights occur in Dubai, and no crew member has to leave the aircraft during turnarounds. However, this means all routes will require a stopover in the Middle East hub.
Similarly, United has also stopped having its crew layover in India. Instead, the airline flies in a backup crew on the inbound flight, which takes over on the return leg. This came after Indian authorities asked a United crew to take an RT-PCR test on arrival, forcing them to fly out without any passengers instead of taking the tests.
While several airlines continue to fly services to India, the passengers who can travel have been greatly restricted. On KLM flights, which were recently banned also, only Dutch nationals and a handful of others are eligible to fly. Similarly, travel bans from the US, Germany, and others means there are few passengers on these flights.
Instead, many routes are operating due to the critical cargo they are carrying into India. This includes crucial medical supplies like oxygen concentrators, ventilators, masks, and many more.
What do you think about KLM’s decision to reduce layover time? Let us know in the comments.