Which is the safest airline to travel in India in these COVID-19 times? If one goes by Safe Travel Barometer, IndiGo is the safest in India.
The country's largest airline got a rating of 4.2 out of a maximum 5, in rankings that Safe Travel Barometer, claims to be the "world's most comprehensive database for COVID-19 traveller health and safety protocols."
But the ranking is dynamic. In August, when Safe Travel Barometer released its world rankings for the first time, Vistara was the safest, not just in India, but in the whole of Asia Pacific. It had a rating of 4.4. The airline's rating over a month later has come down to 4. IndiGo's rating in August was 4.1.
In August, Vistara was also the second-ranked globally, just behind Lufthansa, which had a rating of 4.5.
Going by the present ranking, GoAir is the second safest in India, and Vistara and SpiceJet are tied for the third position. Air India, which was in news recently for being banned by Hong Kong for carrying passengers who tested positive for COVID-19, has a score of 3.3.
So what changed between August and September for IndiGo to become safest, and for Vistara to slip down two places?
Talking to Moneycontrol, Safe Travel Barometer co-founder and CEO Viren Jain said, "The parameters keep evolving and new ones get added according to the information announced, or shared, by an airline." While Jain added that the weightage given to a parameter varies according to its impact, his colleague and co-founder Chetan Kapoor later told Moneycontrol that parameters such as onboard meals, HEPA air filters, changes to the airline cancellation and rebooking policy, were later added, leading to the change in rankings.
Safe Travel Barometer is a subsidiary of VIDEC, a travel industry advisory and consulting firm based in Mumbai. Apart from airlines, the company also does similar surveys for nine other industry verticals, including airports, hotels and museums.
"We use information, either announced by an airline or share by it with us. An algorithm, which has been developed in-house, then uses this information to form the rankings," said Chetan Kapoor, co-founder of Safe Travel Barometer.
In its August statement, the company said Vistara has been ranked high on parameters such as following COVID-19 protocols including providing masks and sanitisers, and for frequent cleaning of aircraft before/after every flight.
While the statement added that the ranking is based on 20 parameters, the present ranking on the website that shows IndiGo on the top, uses 13.
Safe Travel Barometer now plans to come out with its rankings every month.