SpiceJet To Introduce Social Distancing – Will This Affect Prices?

As airlines around the world start to think about how they will accommodate passengers with social distancing rules in place, SpiceJet has prepared a plan that it will adhere to when operations commence.

SpiceJet has a blueprint for social distancing. Photo: Johnathan Payne via Flickr

With no specific date yet set for a resumption of regular commercial passenger flights, India’s second-biggest airline has a plan to combat social distancing. The big question here, and one that will be on most passengers’ minds, is will a limited number of seats equate to higher ticket prices?

How will social distancing work at the airport?

When we talk about social distancing during the COVID-19 lockdown, we are referring to the government guidelines of two meters, which is about six and a half feet. This may work fine when people queue at supermarkets and only a limited number of shoppers are allowed in at a time, but how is it going to work at the airport?

First of all, gone will be selecting your own seat and being able to check-in online, unless of course, the airline just blocks seats so no one is sitting next to another person. Most likely though, seat allocation will be done at the airport before you board the aircraft.

According to news website newKerala.com, SpiceJet has a social distancing plan that covers everything from check-in to disembarking the aircraft.

Colored tape will mark out social distances at Indian airports. Photo: Karthik Nadar via Wikimedia

At the check-in desks, SpiceJet will place colored tape on the floor to show people how far they should be apart. On the buses between terminals and the ones to and from that aircraft, seats will be blocked off with a giant “X” to show people that they cannot sit there.

Even the stairs getting on and off the plane will be marked and illuminated at night so that people can keep their distance.

Together with all the measuring and the tape, the cabin crew will undergo special training to make sure all the rules are adhered to.

India is considering a 1.5-meter distance rule

The Times of India is reporting today, that if some of the ideas being discussed by the aviation authority come to fruition, aircraft could be flying two thirds empty. If this is the case, we could see airlines jacking up their prices to compensate for the empty seats.

One senior official at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is quoted by The Times of India as saying:

“Given the seat width, having one vacant seat between two passengers may not be adequate social distancing. With time, as things hopefully improve on the corona front in terms of spread getting contained and medicines/vaccines being developed, we will gradually ease on-board social distancing norms.”

 While we may be used to the two-meter rule, it is far too big a gap to work at an airport, which is why the DGCA wants to shorten it to 1.5 meters.

“Discussions have already been held with airlines and airport operators. Given the low volume of travel expected in the first few weeks, 1.5-meter distancing will not be an issue at big airports like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and some others,” said the official.

Tickets are going to be more expensive

In the beginning, as we move away from the crisis, I can see very few people flying as the coronavirus will still be out there. Add to this all the rules that will be in place and most likely more expensive tickets, and you have plenty of reasons for people not to fly.

Passengers should expect to pay more for tickets after the coronavirus. Photo: Ramón via Wikimedia

Airlines, of course, are looking to start making money again anyway they can and want to resume flying as soon as possible, even if it means flying with mostly empty planes.

While the SpiceJet blueprint is all well and good, it, like some other Indian airlines, may not be able to weather the storm, leaving cash-rich IndiGo to pick up the pieces.

What do you think of SpiceJet’s plan and the whole social distancing idea on aircraft? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.