However, if a flyer has been allotted the middle seat due to a high passenger load "then additional protective equipment like wrap-around gown of the ministry of textile approved standards" must be provided.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday asked airlines to keep middle seats vacant to the extent possible in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. However, if a flyer has been allotted the middle seat due to a high passenger load “then additional protective equipment like wrap-around gown of the ministry of textile approved standards” must be provided to him or her in addition to a three-layered face mask and face shield, it said.
While hearing a petition on whether to keep middle seats in flights vacant or not, the Supreme Court had on May 25 said that the DGCA is free to alter its norms in the interest of public health and safety of passengers “rather than of commercial considerations”.
The DGCA, citing this Supreme Court observation, in its order on Monday said, “The airlines shall 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, members of the same family may be allowed to sit together,” it added.
Since an average narrow body plane in India has 180 seats in 3×3 configuration, it means it has 60 middle seats and as many window and aisle seats, indicating that up to 120 passengers can be seated while keeping middle seats vacant. The DGCA order said airlines must provide a safety kit to each passenger.
It shall include a three-layered surgical mask, a face shield and adequate amount of sanitiser in either a sachet or a bottle. “The embarkation or disembarkation shall be sequential and passengers shall be advised by airlines to follow the instructions and not to rush to the entry or exit gate. The airline shall ensure orderly entry or exit of the passengers,” the DGCA stated.