Delhi High Court has issued guidelines for air passengers, empowering airline cabin crew to offload unruly flyers who don't wear their facemasks properly.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the fact that several travelers on the Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5 sported masks below their chin and manifested a "stubborn reluctance" to wear them correctly, the court said airlines are free to take action and put flyers on a "no-fly" list if they repeatedly refuse to follow COVID-19 protocol.
Justice C Hari Shankar passed the order on Monday, March 8, saying that such a situation "is completely unconscionable" when the country is witnessing a revival of the COVID-19 cases.
He issued seven guidelines for prompt adherence by airlines and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Justice Shankar further stated that the matter be registered as suo motu public interest litigation, listed for the next hearing on March 17.
"To the perception of the Court, such a situation, in the present scenario, when the country is seeing a resurgence of Covid-10 cases, after they had shown signs of ebbing, is completely unconscionable," he said in the order.
The court also instructed the DGCA to noticeably place on its website the directions comprising guidelines and protocols to be followed by air travelers and in-flight crew on domestic flights.
The airlines have also been ordered by the court to provide the flyers with written instructions to be followed on the flight as well as actions that could be taken against them if they don't follow the protocols.
"The in-flight announcements which, presently, merely require the passengers to wear masks at all times, should be modified to include a cautionary word regarding the penal action that could be taken against them in the event of default," noted one of the guidelines.
"In order to ensure compliance, DGCA may consider sending random observers on flights, without prior information, who would check to ensure that the COVID-19 protocols are followed in flight. Strict enforcement of all penal provisions, which could visit delinquent passengers who refuse to abide by the COVID protocols to be maintained in flight, should be ensured. There should be no relaxation whatsoever in that regard," the order said.
The court, however, also said that relaxation should only be permitted in cases that are altogether exceptional, such as on medical grounds.