With India putting in place stricter rules for screening all incoming passengers for coronavirus from across the world, international flights are likely to be delayed as the aircraft has to be disinfectingbefore allowing passengers to board. The process of disinfecting takes two to three hours. Only international aircraft are being subject to this procedure, said officials of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Friday.

The process of disinfecting the aircraft is carried out by a ground handling agency and involves spraying the aircraft — using sanitisation sprays with more than 60 per cent alcohol — and leaving it for some time.

On Tuesday, the DGCA said operators should ensure that all aircraft arriving from South Korea, Japan and Italy are subject to a disinfection process after arrival in India, before passengers board for the next flight.

Ground handling staff that BusinessLine spoke to said normal sanitisation of a widebody aircraft takes about 45 minutes, but thorough sanitisation could take longer.

“If there has to be sanitisation wipes on every seat or in every area where a passenger’s hand might go like, say, the seat belt, the table in front of the seat or the recline button, the process can take more than the 45 minutes that is required to sanitise a widebody aircraft during normal times,” a ground handling service provider said.

According to the new procedure that has been put into place from Tuesday, cleaning crew cannot get into the aircraft unless they get an all-clear from the airport health authorities that all the passengers on the arriving aircraft have tested negative for the virus.

“This process of checking everyone on the flight for fever by itself takes time. So the cleaning crew boards the aircraft, say, 15 to 30 minutes later than what they would have done earlier. If no passenger is suspected to be carrying the virus, then the crew can clear the aircraft quickly,” the ground handler said.