Domestic flights: Airlines can allot middle seats, passengers should wear ‘wrap-around’ gowns, says Bombay HC

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Published: June 15, 2020 6:33 PM

The report said that the plea was filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani, who alleged that the national carrier violated the norms of social distancing.

DGCA guidelines, domestic flights in India, middle seats in flights, airlines in India, domestic airlines, high court order to domestic flightsThis is in compliance with the order issued by the Civil Aviation earlier.

Domestic flights in India: Middle seats in flights allowed to be filled! The Bombay High Court on Monday allowed airlines to fill up the middle seats in their domestic flights, according to a report in IE. This is in compliance with the order issued by the Civil Aviation earlier. However, the HC allowed it on the condition that passengers should wear “wrap around” gowns, and that the airlines should follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The report said that the plea was filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani, who alleged that the national carrier violated the norms of social distancing at the time of evacuation of stranded Indians on board a special flight. In an interim order, the bench, consisting of Justices SJ Kathawalla and SP Tavade, told all the airlines to comply with the DGCA guidelines.

In the final hearing on Monday, the bench said that they were of the view that the safety of the passengers, keeping in view the COVID-19 pandemic, was adequately taken care of even if the middle seat did not remain vacant. However, they further directed all airlines to strictly adhere to the guidelines issued by the DGCA.

History of the case

As per the report, on May 22, the HC had observed “prima facie” that the national carrier had violated the guidelines and told the airline to give the court a list of all the passengers who had been allotted the vacant seats and the flights they had taken to reach India. Following this, the aviation authorities moved the apex court against the HC order.

Based on the May 25 order of the Supreme Court, the DGCA then on May 31 told the airlines to either keep the middle seat or provide “wrap around” gowns to the passengers sitting in the middle seats.

On June 2, the HC asked the national carrier and the DGCA to give a list of the ‘Vande Bharat’ passengers who had tested negative before boarding the flight and tested positive upon reaching the country. The Centre told the court that 227 of the 58,867 passengers had tested positive upon reaching India. Centre also told the court that the cases were identified during institutional quarantine and therefore, there was no proof about whether the passengers had contracted COVID-19 on the flight.

The HC then clarified from an expert committee if the virus could be transmitted through touch, in response to which, the committee said that transmission through touch could only happen if hands were not being disinfected or protective gears were not worn.

The report quoted the panel as saying that an infected person merely touching a non-infected person would not lead to transmission unless it takes place through droplets sitting on clothes and ultimately reaching the nose, eyes or mouth of the other person.

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