DGCA asks airlines to keep middle seat vacant or provide 'wrap-around' gowns

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DGCA had made keeping middle seat vacant on every flight when the nod for resumption of domestic flights was given from May 25, but it withdrew the circular after capping of air fares for three months.

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s aviation regulator, has asked airlines to keep the middle seats vacant or provide ‘wrap-around gowns’ to passengers.

The agency had made keeping middle seat vacant on every flight when the nod for resumption of domestic flights was given from May 25, but it withdrew the circular after capping of air fares for three months.

The regulator has reverted to the original position after it was pulled up by the Supreme Court for allowing booking of middle seats on flights. The apex court had criticised the government and the DGCA saying that the government should worry more about the health of citizens than the health of commercial airlines.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde questioned why the government deemed social distancing norms was not necessary on flights when it has insisted on maintaining six feet distance elsewhere in its guidelines.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for both DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) and the state-run Air India, had argued that keeping the middle seats vacant served no purpose as the flights have air circulation, and said the best practice advised by medical and aviation experts was increased testing and quarantine, and not middle seat difference.

But the court was not impressed by the line of argument and remarked: “Outside, there should be a social distancing of at least six feet, and inside you’re eliminating even middle seat difference.”

In its fresh circular, the DGCA said that all attempts should be made to keep the middle seat empty to the extent possible. “If the middle seat is occupied due to high load, the flyer should be provided with a ‘wrap-around gowns’,” said the DGCA (with inputs from agencies)

Image Credit: The Week

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