Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Zero tolerance: DGCA directs airlines to give Covid protocol for flyers with ticket

New Delhi: The next time you book an air ticket, the airline will send you an e-copy of the Covid protocol that needs to be meticulously followed at airports during arrival and departure and inflight during the journey.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has directed airlines to provide passengers in digital form its circular of March 13, 2021, — that lays down the pandemic time travel protocol emphasising on social distancing and wearing masks properly at all times — “along with ticket and also with electronic or normal boarding card, as applicable”.

The regulator has also directed airlines to make passengers aware of the travel protocol, ensure their strict compliance and consequences for wilfully violating them. Airlines have been asked to sensitise passengers of these steps through frequent boarding gate and onboard announcements.

Airports have been asked to display the protocol prominently.

The DGCA action follows an order by the Delhi High Court on March 8, 2021, after Justice C Hari Shankar observed an “alarming situation” — a blatant violation of Covid protocol by passengers — while travelling on an Air India flight from Kolkata to Delhi on March 5.

“…constrained to pass the present order because of (that) alarming situation,” Justice Shankar passed a landmark judgment three days later to ensure passengers follow all Covid protocol. The cabin crew on that flight told him that while they directed al passengers to wear masks properly, “but were helpless in case they did not comply”.

The high court order said: “In-flight crew shall carry out periodical checks of the aircraft, in order to ensure that all passengers are complying with the protocol to be followed by them in flight, especially regarding wearing of masks. It is made clear that masks should be worn as directed by governmental instructions, covering the nose and mouth, and not worn merely covering the mouth or below the chin.”

“In the event of any passenger being unwilling to follow this protocol prior to the flight taking off, the passenger should be offloaded without delay. If a passenger, despite being reminded more than once in flight, refuses to follow this protocol, action should be taken against the passenger in accordance with (DGCA) guidelines, including placing the passenger on a ‘no-fly’ regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long, period,” the order added.

The court also directed all concerned authorities “to accord adequate publicity to these guidelines, so that there is strict compliance therewith.”

Following this order, the DGCA issued a string of directives last Saturday. It directed security agencies not to allow airport entry to passengers who are not wearing masks; asked airlines to deboard passengers who refuse to wear masks properly before take off and begin action under unruly flyer rules for those do not wear a mask properly inflight.

16/03/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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