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The Indian aviation industry has finally resumed domestic flights in the country and being professional pilots themselves, YouTubers Gaurav Taneja and Ritu Rathee Taneja are all set to take off again after a two-month-long wait. We caught up with the ‘Flying Beast‘ power couple to chat about the new changes in the aviation world. By Sushmita Srivastav

What do you think about the government’s recent decision of allowing airlines in India to resume domestic flights from May 25?

The decision was long expected because a lot of people have been stuck in different parts of the country for months now. The lockdown was announced with very short notice, and everything had suddenly come to a standstill. People were, hence, eagerly waiting for air travel to resume. I think all in all it’s a good decision, and the step is essential for reviving our economy too.

How has the two-month-long suspension of air travel impacted the growth of the aviation industry in India?

This long no-flying period put all the airlines on a back-foot globally. Many international airlines have announced laying off certain percentages of their workforce. Many aviation professionals have been asked to bear with a salary cut or go on leave without pay. In February, the air travel was on an all-time high, and suddenly, everything came down to almost nothing. There is always a cost involved in everything—even when an aeroplane is on the ground and not flying, it’s maintenance still costs a lot. And since the airlines were making absolutely no money, it was really difficult for the whole aviation industry to bear those overhead costs. I don’t see the ban getting lifted from the international flights anytime soon. Thankfully, domestic travel has begun in India, but things are still up in the air.

Being full-time pilots yourselves, what challenges do you guys foresee?

Well, we haven’t flown for almost 60 days now, and the rules have completely changed now so that is one big challenge staring right at us. Other than that, the biggest challenge has been constantly changing orders or different directions from the state and the central governments. Many state governments have announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people who choose to fly to certain destinations. Such guidelines put people in a sticky situation, and though important, these measures will impact air travel. Airports have a lot of contact points, and efforts are being made to minimise the risk by closing many such spots, but it’s not possible to shut them all, like the entrance, the counters, etc. Airport security is another major concern—security checking requires one to take off the jacket, shoes, jewellery, etc. and there’s hardly any time to sanitise each dish every time. There is a study related to this that identifies these checkpoints are of highest risk. We all are trying to do our best, but there are many such challenges, including these little details, that we need to be careful of.

As per the official guidelines, what are the in-flight precautions and safety measures that the airlines are going to take?

You see, there are new rules for everything now because there is no way we can work the old way. Most of the airlines are doing distance learning programmes now for their staff and pilots. Many of the in-flight precautions and safety measures are yet to be finalised as the airlines are still going back and forth with the ministry. For instance, initially, we were ordered to keep the middle seats vacant, but that rule has now been struck off. There will be social distancing at the airport for sure, it’s not doable in the flights. The airlines are going to provide all the passengers with a kit each with face mask, gloves, and sanitiser. Then, there will be temperature checks at the entrance and might be another screening before boarding the flight. The in-flight contact has to be made minimal so no food and beverages will be allowed in the aircraft. Expect slower boarding and deboarding, and early check-ins. Following the new procedures might be chaotic and see many hiccups in the beginning, but I am sure it will become smoother with time.

You two are avid travellers and travel quite often around the world for your channel, Flying Beast. How difficult is it, as vloggers, to create content for your subscribers during the lockdown?

A major part of the content is about travelling, but just like all the content creators, we too have evolved and changed our content according to the need of the hour. You have to always keep evolving in this job. We are definitely not going to travel until everything is normal again. Travelling for a job or under emergency circumstances is different, but our vacation plans will have to wait.

And how are you guys personally coping up with the quarantine?

I think when the lockdown began, we both were worried and things were difficult but as time passed, we gradually realised how nice it was to spend time with our family. We just celebrated our daughter’s second birthday at home in the most memorable way—we decorated our house together and then danced all evening.

Where would you want to travel to for a vacation once the bans are lifted?

We had plans to travel to the Caribbean Island before Rasbhari, our daughter, turned two. It was a long vacation plan. We would love to go ahead with the same.

One skill that you both had fun learning together during this lockdown?

Yoga. Our whole family tries to do yoga together every morning, even our two-year-old!

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