The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has made social distancing, may be better termed as physical distancing, the new normal for us. To help our society fight this unprecedented situation, maintaining a distance of 2 meters between two people has become the norm.
In the bus industry, we can contribute strongly by ensuring that social distancing is followed between passengers while travelling on the same bus. To keep the system running and also keeping the spread of the virus in control, this could also be imposed as regulation/rule from certain states or central government, after the lockdown is relaxed.
To execute this, bus operators can get support from their ticketing booking software. When the seat allocation is managed by GDS software provider; the same gets applied to all booking channels – OTA, branch, agent, or your website e-bookings. The OTAs like redBus, AbhiBus, Travelyaari etc. will need to make only a few changes to the customer experience during a booking transaction.
Seeing the need of the situation and understanding that seat allocation is best handled through your booking software, we have added a new feature. This will help you implement the Social Distancing Seating, irrespective of the channels you get booking from.
Probable social distancing rules
State governments can come up with their own rules for social distancing. At this moment, few regulations have started to come but are likely to evolve. In the given situation, we can only be prepared for all the current and future possibilities. The various possibilities could be:
- Alternate rows should be empty
- Alternate seats should be empty
- Alternate seats should be empty, however, there need not be empty seats between family/known people
Implementation approach for the above scenarios
The Social Distancing Configuration on Bitla can provide solutions for all the above possibilities. Let us understand the specifics depending on the social distancing rule which could become applicable.
Scenario 1: Alternate rows should be empty
Inside seat layout configuration on the system, the bus operators get the settings to manually block seats for social distancing. This is very similar to the capability to block quota seats. They can manually block seats on all alternate rows for all services. This information will be passed on to OTAs. OTA can show the same information on the seat layout when a customer is trying to book a ticket.
As the regulation says to book alternate rows, there is no configuration required for sleeper coaches because they already have a partition between the two rows.
Bus occupancy and seat price:
It will effectively reduce the seating capacity of the bus to its half, which will affect the revenue of the bus operators. So, to have the same revenue from the bus as before, the bus operators would like to increase the fair for the service. It’s entirely up to the bus operator to decide the seat price for the service.
Scenario 2: Alternate seats should be empty
The implementation approach here is very similar to the above scenario. Bus operators can manually block all alternate seats in each row for all the services, such that every alternate seat in any column is also blocked. If it’s a sleeper coach, the bus operator will manually block all alternate sleeper beds. This information will be passed on to OTAs. OTA can show the same information on the seat layout when a customer is trying to book a ticket.
Bus occupancy and seat price
Such scenarios will effectively reduce the capacity of the bus to half. To be able to make the same revenue from the bus as before, the bus operator would likely configure increased price per seat. It’s entirely the discretion of the bus operator to decide the seat price per service.
Scenario 3: Alternate seats should be empty, with an exemption of family members.
This rule implies that empty seats are blocked dynamically for social distancing, while seats are getting booked on OTAs, branches, agents and e-booking channels. Therefore, this needs a seat allocation/blocking logic to be implemented through the ticket booking software, to ensure uniformity across all the booking channels. The objective must be to minimize the number of empty seats.
Each booking transaction could have multiple seats. The assumption we should apply is that people who booked within the same booking transaction are known to each other, trust each other or have been staying together, and therefore do not need social distancing. The Social Distancing Configuration on Bitla uses this intelligence and does not block empty seats between seats within the same booking transaction. When the next booking transaction is executed (by another person), one seat will be blocked between the seats booked under the first transaction and the current transaction.
Besides, the new configuration setting provides additional flexibility options at the route level:
- Social Distancing guaranteed for Adjacent seats only
- Social Distancing guaranteed for Front and back seats also
The bus operator can configure both options with Yes/No at the service level. For seater bus types, both options will likely be enabled. For sleeper bus types, only the option “Adjacent seats only” will likely be enabled (assuming the bus has a full-length physical partition between sleeper rows).
So, now you know that no matter what the Government Regulation says and how it evolves in the future, your booking software is ready for it and help you run your buses smoothly.
Follow the space for more details on Social Distancing Configuration and further updates.