The Bombay High Court on Monday refused to accept the reservations raised against booking of middle seats in the flights. The court was hearing a plea filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani, who said the middle seats of all international and domestic flights should be kept vacant amid ongoing virus spread. The division bench observed that the air carriers can book middle seats in flights, but after complying with guidelines of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on measures to prevent coronavirus spread, news agency PTI reported.
"We are of the prima facie view that the safety and health of passengers on board the aircraft qua (with regard to) COVID-19 virus is adequately taken care of even if the middle seat of the aircraft is not kept vacant on account of passenger load and seat capacity," the court said.
On May 31, DGCA had said that the airlines should try to keep the middle seat vacant. However, if the seats have been booked, the passenger shall be provided with a wraparound gown in addition to the mask and face shield, it had said in its circular.
The court in its order also said it has not seen any material to show wrongdoing on part of the Air India and Air India Express or violating circulars issued by the DGCA on March 23 and endangering the lives of passengers travelling back to India from abroad in the Vande Bharat flights.
Upon disembarkment, thermal screening of all passengers is again carried out and they are thereafter compulsorily placed under institutional quarantine for seven to 14 days. It is not established till date that any passenger, who tested positive, has been infected on board an aircraft, the court added.
The court observed that even in the case of the middle seat being vacant, the person occupying the window seat, while getting out to go to the washroom and thereafter returning to the seat, is likely to touch the person sitting on the aisle seat.