Court Order: Flights In India Can Fill Middle Seats After Adhering To Guidelines

Mumbai: All airlines operating in India can now fill the middle seats of flights subject to them adhering to guidelines issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on May 31 pertaining to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and other standard operating procedures (SOPs) announced by the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA).

The Bombay high court (HC) passed an order to this effect on Monday based on a petition filed by an Air India pilot, who had complained that the national carrier had risked safety of passengers while operating Vande Bharat Mission flights.

The pilot had referred to a March 23 circular of the DGCA, which stated that the middle seats of flights be kept vacant to maintain social distancing among passengers in view of the raging pandemic.

The DGCA issued a fresh circular on May 31, stating that the middle seat could be filled provided passengers were provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) kit — face mask, face shield, gloves, hand sanitizers, etc.

The single-judge bench of Justice SJ Kathawalla was on Monday informed by DGCA and MCA authorities that they had issued instructions to ensure safety of domestic and international passengers.

Air India, represented by solicitor-general Tushar Mehta among others, submitted they would ensure that the May 31 circular and SOPs issued by aviation authorities would be adhered to. They prayed for the writ petition to be dismissed and also for the petitioner to bear the cost of his ‘wasteful exercise’.

The court, however, didn’t decide whether to financially penalise the petitioner.

Also Read: DGCA Urges Airlines To Keep Middle Seats Vacant Or Provide ‘Wrap Around Gowns’ To Fliers

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