From October, pilots and cabin crew will have to again go through mandatory breath analyser (BA) tests. The BA tests, which are conducted to check alcohol content in the body, were stopped after the country was hit by the Covid pandemic in 2020. The norms were later limited to 50% of the personnel only. In May 2021, after the Delhi HC order, only six persons were allowed to undergo the test in one hour. However, the new rule now mandates all aircraft personnel, including pilots and cabin crew, to undergo the test.

The aviation regulator DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has issued guidelines to resume mandatory breath analyser (BA) tests for all pilots and cabin crew with effect from October 15, 2022.

The decision to resume the BA test was taken in considering the declining number of Covid cases in the country and amid the increase in the volume of air traffic after the resumption of normal flights.

The DGCA guidelines say the breath analyser test should be conducted in a wide area, to the extent possible, under CCTV coverage.

The DGCA decision comes days after the central government decided to remove the airfare fare caps on domestic flights after two years on August 31. The airfare mechanism was introduced by the Centre to stop airlines from charging excessive fares amid the critical Covid period and save financially-struggling airlines from making more losses.

The decision was taken after analysing daily demand and the prices of air turbine fuel (ATF). The ministry says airlines and airport operators will ensure the guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19 are strictly adhered to and COVID-appropriate behaviour is strictly enforced by them during travel.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in India, scheduled domestic operations were suspended on March 25, 2020, which were subsequently resumed in a calibrated manner from May 25, 2020. The international flights were resumed in March this year after nearly two years.

The aviation industry was hit hard during the Covid pandemic. Despite fully opening the domestic and international operations, domestic airlines are expected to report a net loss of ₹15,000 crore to ₹17,000 crore in the financial year 2022-23, primarily due to elevated aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices and the recent depreciation of the Indian rupee, says an ICRA report.

The airline industry across the globe, however, is looking at profitability in 2023, with North America expected to deliver an $8.8 billion profit in 2022 alone, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says. As the pace of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis quickens, the IATA says industry losses are expected to reduce to $9.7 billion in 2022. It is an improvement from the October-2021 forecast that pegged losses at $11.6 billion.

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