Airlines told to keep middle-seats vacant or give 'wrap-around gowns'
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday asked airlines to keep middle seats vacant during journeys to ward off risks of coronavirus transmission. In case passengers end up on the seat, they must be given a wrap-around gown, in addition to a three-layered face mask and a shield. Airline operations, shut for two months, restarted in a calibrated manner last week.
Puri wasn't in favor of keeping middle seats vacant
Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said middle seats can't be kept vacant as it would increase ticket prices. "Even if you keep middle seats vacant you will still have a situation where prescribed distance for social distancing isn't followed. If you were to do it then, you have to hike the ticket price by 33%," he had said.
Members of same family can sit together: DGCA
However, in its latest circular, the regulator gave new suggestions. It said, "The airlines shall allot seats in a manner that middle seat is kept vacant if the passenger load and seat capacity permits. However, members of the same family may be allowed to sit together." The fliers must be given "additional protective equipment like a wrap-around gown of the Textile Ministry approved standards".
AI flights can operate with full strength till June 6
The order reiterated the previous SOPs of not serving food on the plane, disinfecting the plane after every trip, and using sanitizers judiciously. To note, the DGCA directive came days after the Supreme Court ordered Air India to keep middle seats vacant in repatriation flights after June 6. The national carrier had argued that tickets have been booked until the aforementioned date.
It's common sense: SC on following social distancing inside planes
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, and also including AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said it was common sense to follow distancing guidelines inside the plane too. "Outside, there should be a social distancing of at least six feet, what about inside aircraft. You should be worried about the health of citizens, not about the health of commercial airlines," the bench commented.