Monday, March 4, 2024

Airlines Shall Keep Middle Seat Vacant Or Provide Protective Gear To Passengers: DGCA

The Director General of Civil Aviation has issued directions for the Airlines which will come into effect from June, 3.

Its mentioned that all passengers will be provided with safety kits by airlines, which will include three-layer surgical mask, face shield and adequate sanitizer (sachets/bottle).

Moreover, DGCA has highlighted that the airlines will allot the seats in such a manner that the middle seat between two passengers is kept vacant if the passenger load and seat capacity permits the same. However, it further added that the members of same family may be allowed to sit together.

Thereafter, it says that if middle seat/ seat between two passengers is occupied due to passenger load, then additional protective equipment like “wrap around gown” (Ministry of Textiles approved standards) will be provided to the individual occupying the intervening seat in addition to the three-layer face mask and face shield.

Below are the following directions issued by DGCA: –

  1. No meals or drinking water shall be served on board except in extreme circumstances arising due to health reasons.
  2. The embarkation/ disembarkation shall be sequential and passengers shall be advised by airlines to follow the instructions and not to rush to the entry/ exit gate. The airlines shall ensure orderly entry/exit of the passengers.
  3. Airlines shall set the air-conditioning system in such a way that the air gets replaced at the shortest possible intervals.
  4. Aircraft shall be sanitized after the end of each sector when there is no passenger on board. However, on transit flights, when passengers are on board, the seats (including its contacts) which have been vacated by the passenger shall be sanitized. At the end of the day, each aircraft shall be deep cleaned as per the procedure prescribed by the DGCA vide its circular 4/1/2020-IR dated 17.3.2020. Special attention shall be paid to sanitize the seat belt and all other contact points.
  5. Airplane lavatories shall be cleaned /sanitized frequently during the flight.
  6. Airlines shall carry out health check-up of all crew regularly. All flying crew/ Cabin Crew shall be given full protective suits.
  7. In case of COVID-19 related medical emergency on board, aircraft disinfection shall be carried with special attention to all the affected and adjoining seats.
  8. Airlines/Airports shall explore the possibility of having a disinfection tunnel to ensure safety of passengers after fully evaluating its health implications on human beings.
  9. The aforesaid directions are in addition to those already prescribed MoCA/DGCA.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had allowed Air India to operate international flights with occupancy in middle seats. The courts direction came on a petition filed by the Centre and Air India after Bombay high court questioned why the airline was not keeping the middle seats vacant in international flights.

“Air India shall be allowed to operate non-scheduled foreign flights with middle seats occupied for ten days: The Chief Justrice of India S A Bobde said “you should be worried about the health of the citizens not about the health of a commercial airline.”

A division bench presided by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna, and Justice Hrishikesh Roy of Supreme Court while conducting hearing through video conferencing further stated that the matter will be looked at again in ten days and in the meantime had asked the Bombay High Court to pass an interim order after hearing all the parties. The bench had also given DGCA a free hand to alter any norms it may consider appropriate during the pendency of the matter.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Central Government and Air India submitted before the Court that the Interim order given by the Bombay High Court relies on the pre- lockdown circular dated 18th March, and applies only to the non-scheduled domestic flights. Whereas, the Bench contended by saying that it applies to Airports and Airlines.


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