- Bombay High Court allows airlines to fill the middle seats on the aeroplane
- Airlines will be able to fill the middle seats on both domestic and international flights
On Monday, the Bombay High Court gave a nod to the airline companies to allow flyers to occupy the middle seats in the aircraft but added that the will have to ensure that the guidelines put forwards by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on measures to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
The bench which constituted of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade refused to accept the arguments raised by Deven Kanani, Pilot with Air India, in a petition who claimed that middle seat in all domestic and international flights must be kept vacant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Bombay HC said, “We are of the prima facie view that the safety and health of passengers on board the aircraft qua (with regard to) COVID-19 virus is adequately taken care of even if the middle seat of the aircraft is not kept vacant on account of passenger load and seat capacity, “.
In the circular of 31st May, the DGCA said that the flight operators need to try to keep the middle seat vacant but if the seat has been then the passenger who would be sitting in the middle seat must be provided with a wraparound gown in addition to the mask and face shield.
The circular added, if possible, the passenger from the same family or those who are travelling as a group could be allotted the middle seat on the flight.
In its order, the court said, it has not seen any material which shows any wrong doing on the part of Air India or Air India Express or violation circulars which was issued by DGCA on the 23rd of March. The court added, it did not see any material showing any endargement to the lives of the passengers travelling back to India from abroad in the Vande Bharat flights.
The bench noted that all the precautionary measures stipulated with regards passengers and the crew members are complied with by every airline.
The court said, “Upon disembarkment, thermal screening of all passengers is again carried out and they are thereafter compulsorily placed under institutional quarantine for seven to 14 days. It is not established till date that any passenger, who tested positive, has been infected on board an aircraft,”.
The court added that if in case the middle seat is kept vacant, the person who will be occupying the window seat is likely to get in contact with the person sitting on the aisle seat while going to the lavatory on the flight.
The court noted that a high-level expert committee of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) specifically considered the option and then rejected the same.
Deven Kanani claimed that the Air India was in violation of the guidelines laid down by the Central Government in the circular dated 23rd of March aiming to contain the spread of the novel COVID-19.
Air India, on the other hand, has opposed the petition informing the HC in May that the airline was following the guidelines of the DGCA religiously.