SINGAPORE: Face masks will soon be mandatory for passengers travelling with Singapore Airlines (SIA), its regional wing SilkAir and budget carrier Scoot, as part of new measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 11.59pm on Sunday, all passengers on SIA and SilkAir flights must bring their own face mask on board and wear it throughout the flight, said SIA in an advisory on its website on Saturday (May 9).
Passengers will also have to observe safe distancing measures when embarking and disembarking, as well as when queuing for the lavatory.
This is in accordance with a directive by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, said the airline.
Replying to CNA's queries, SIA said that its ground staff and cabin crew will assist to ensure that passengers observe safe-distancing measures at all times
"For example, passengers will be boarded and disembarked in batches and will be reminded to keep a safe distance from the next person," said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that if passengers required a seat change, they can "approach cabin crew once everyone is on board".
"Our crew will see how best to assist these passengers."
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It also announced other travel measures for certain flights.
Customers travelling to Singapore will undergo a basic health assessment before boarding, including a verbal health declaration and temperature checks, said the airline.
Meal services will be suspended for flights within Southeast Asia and services to China. Passengers will be given a snack bag with water and refreshments when boarding instead.
All other flights will have meals provided.
"These measures are in addition to the existing precautionary measures that SIA and SilkAir have in place to safeguard the wellbeing of our customers and crew," said SIA.
These other measures include the suspension of hot towel service on board, and the removal of menu cards and seatback reading material such as magazines on all flights.
Cabin crew members and pilots have their temperatures taken before flights and do not report for work if they are unwell, said SIA. They also wear masks and goggles or eye visors during flights.
In addition, aircraft undergo a "thorough cleaning process" and are equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, it said.
Singapore Airlines' budget arm Scoot also announced on Sunday that it will be implementing similar measures on its flights.
In addition to mandatory face masks on board, passengers will be required to submit a health declaration form before checking in and have their temperature taken.
All Scoot operating crew, who already undergo pre-flight temperature taking, must wear the appropriate PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) while on duty.
"All Scoot flights currently operate with limited in-flight service and, where possible, passengers are seated to ensure safe distancing," added the airline.
Passengers will also be asked to limit cabin baggage to 3kg, down from the previous 10kg and 15 kg in Economy and ScootPlus, respectively, for easier security clearance and boarding.
"The remaining cabin baggage will need to be checked-in, at no additional cost," Scoot said.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has hit the aviation sector hard, as countries tighten borders and enforce safe distancing lockdowns to fight the novel coronavirus.
At the end of March, SIA announced that it would make a 96 per cent cut in SIA and SilkAir's combined passenger capacity until the end of April. The flight cancellations were subsequently extended until June, amid continuing global travel restrictions.
On Friday, SIA said it would report a material operating loss in the quarter ended Mar 31, partly because of a collapse in fuel prices that led to major hedging losses.
Operating cashflows are expected to remain negative in the quarter ending on Jun 30, at a time when most of its fleet is grounded because of the coronavirus crisis, said the airline. Additional fuel hedging losses are expected in that quarter, it added.