Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday asked airlines to allot seats in such a manner that middle seats are kept vacant on planes to ensure physical distancing. DGCA's order came after the Supreme Court pulled up the aviation regulator and Air India for putting the lives of the flyers at risk by booking for middle seats as domestic flights resumed after two months of coronavirus-led national lockdown.
DGCA in its order said, "The airline shall allot the seats in such a manner that the middle seat is kept vacant if the passenger load and seat capacity permits the same." It added, "However members of the same family may be allowed to sit together."
Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister, had earlier said that keeping the middle seat vacant would not be viable for both - airlines and passengers - as the fares would shoot up.
DGCA added that in case the middle seat can't be kept vacant, the occupant must be provided extra protective equipment. The order added, "Additional protective equipment like 'wrap-around gown' [Ministry of Textiles approved standards] shall be provided to the individual occupying the intervening seat in addition to three-layered mask and face shield."
India resumed the domestic passenger flight operations after a pause of around two months due to the lockdown. The international flight services would start before August, Puri said.
From now on, no meals or drinking water shall be provided onboard except in extreme circumstance, the DGCA order read. The entry and exit in a flight shall be sequential. The passenger should not rush towards the exit as soon as the flight lands. Airlines must ensure the orderly entry and exit of the travellers, the regulator said.
Domestic flights in the country resumed on May 25, with strict health and security checks at airports. The fifth phase of the lockdown - Unlock 1.0 - began today. The Centre has extended the lockdown until June 30 only in the containment zones, but has allowed malls, restaurants, and religious places to reopen from June 8.
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