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Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Even as uncertainty prevails whether the nation-wide lockdown will end on May 3 or get extended, Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar is preparing itself for resumption of operations after getting necessary approvals from the Centre.

Bhubaneswar Airport Director V V Rao today informed that the resumption of flight services (domestic and international) is subjected to clear instructions from the Centre.

“Today, we had a discussion with airlines, CISF and others regarding preparation of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Airports Authority Of India (AAI),” said Rao.

Currently during the lockdown period, Bhubaneswar Airport is operational with limited watch hours from 10 AM to 6 PM to meet the requirement related to cargo, medical emergency, refuelling and Corona related flight operations. In addition, the watch hours of airport is being extended as and when requirement is received in advance.

As per official sources, AAI plans to start operations 'maybe up to 30 per cent capacity' at airports and scale up operations to the original level in a gradual manner.

Sources said slots will be provided for ensuring staggered operations based on capacity restrictions of terminal buildings to facilitate required social distancing.
“We have to maintain physical distancing between passengers and for that proper marking is required and seating has to be reoriented to maintain a distance of 1 - 1.5 meters between persons inside airport,” said Rao.

Inside airport, sanitation measures have been intensified and cleaning of items including trolleys, boxes will be done once operation starts. Movable wash basins will be installed at the airport.

Senior officials informed that earlier the Biju Patnaik International Airport was handling around 10,000 to 11,000 passengers (both arrival and departure) per day.

Rao further stated that the passenger flow at the airport is likely to come down. The capacity of the airport building was 500 persons per hour during the peak and it will come down because of social distancing.
“Instead of giving 3 to 4 flights at a time, we will schedule them one by one. Once the government gives direction to start operations, we will decide. However, we have to keep a SOP ready,” Rao added.

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