Four passengers on board Alliance Air's Jammu-Delhi flight were de-boarded on Thursday for not wearing masks properly inside the aircraft. The passengers were charged as "unruly or disruptive" and handed over to security agencies at Delhi airport.
This is the first such incident after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued an order last week, asking airlines to strictly comply with the Covid-19 norms.
Reacting to the development, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri tweeted: "I appeal to all air passengers to strictly follow the laid down Covid-19 protocol to safeguard themselves & others around them. Precaution is always better than cure...& disrupted travel plans! Fly Safe."
The DGCA on March 13 issued a strongly worded circular, saying passengers will be de-boarded if they don't wear masks properly inside aircraft or don't follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. "If a passenger violates protocol despite repeated warnings, then the passenger will be treated as 'unruly passenger'," it said.
The aviation regulator said some travellers undertaking air journey don't adhere to Covid-19 protocols, which essentially involves wearing of masks properly i.e. not below the nose, during all times of the journey from entering the airport for departure to exiting the airport after arrival. "It has also been noted that some passengers after entering the airport do not wear masks properly and also do not maintain social distance while being in the airport premises," it said.
The DGCA has said the failure to not follow these guidelines could lead to de-boarding of the passenger. Those not following the guidelines despite repeated instructions should be treated as "unruly passengers" and strict actions should be taken against them, said the DGCA.
The latest DGCA guidelines comes as the country has seen a sudden spike in coronavirus cases. India reported 35,871 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, highest in 2021 so far. The country also recorded 17,741 recoveries and 172 deaths, suggests the Union Health Ministry data.