Thailand becomes first country to ban eating and drinking on domestic flights due to COVID-19

Jan 3, 2021

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The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (EKAT) has announced a ban on eating and drinking on domestic flights. The new policy went into effect on New Year’s Eve. With the longest domestic flights clocking in at two hours, this isn’t a huge inconvenience for passengers. But authorities hope it will curtail the spread of coronavirus. In addition to banning food and drinks, airlines in Thailand will also stop handing out newspapers and magazines.

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While the ban applies to all flights within Thailand, exceptions will be made during emergencies. In these scenarios, flight crew are instructed to serve water in the galley or “as far away from the other passengers as possible.”

This new policy is in line with the ones enacted by major U.S. airlines at the beginning of the pandemic. Several carriers, including Delta, American and JetBlue, banned the serving of alcohol on domestic and short-haul flights to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing. Most U.S. carriers have since reinstated meal service, so it’s interesting to see Thailand implementing these policies now, especially considering the pandemic is fairly contained there compared to the rest of the world.

Thailand was the first nation outside of China to report a coronavirus case and has since reported 6,690 cases and 61 deaths, which is significantly lower than its neighbouring countries and most developed nations. This has been largely credited to Thailand’s quick response, including screening travellers and quarantining those with symptoms. Contract tracing and testing have also been part of Thailand’s successful strategy to contain the virus. This latest policy banning inflight meals and drinks is a continuation of that effort.

Ultimately, this policy won’t be a major inconvenience for travellers in Thailand, since most flights won’t be longer than two hours. It may, however, help the country’s successful attempts to contain the pandemic and ensure that domestic travel continues to be safe for all. Time will tell if more countries follow suit.

Featured photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy

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