DGCA advises airlines to keep middle seats in planes vacant, provide protective gear if it is occupied; suggests disinfection tunnel at airports

Asian News International

New Delhi: The DGCA has told airlines to allot seats in such a manner that the middle seat is kept vacant if passenger load permits and if the seat is occupied due to passenger load, additional protective equipment like wrap-around gown should be provided in addition to the three-layer face mask and face shield.

The airlines have been asked to provide all passengers with safety kits which include three-layered surgical mask, face shield and adequate sanitizer (sachets/bottle).

The DGCA had issued directions to Air India on 6 May for strict compliance of Standard Operating Procedures for operations of evacuation flights under Vande Bharat Mission and subsequently issued a circular on 22 May disseminating guidelines issued by Ministry of Civil Aviation to various stakeholders for the resumption of scheduled domestic operations.

The said SOP and circular included the measures to be taken by various stakeholders for protecting the health of passengers.

The Supreme Court of India, in its order of 25 May, observed that the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is free to alter any norms he may consider necessary during the pendency of the matter in the interest of public health and safety of the passengers rather than of commercial considerations.

The DGCA, in its directions which will come into force from 3 June, has said that airlines shall allot the seats" in such a manner that the middle seat/seat between two passengers is kept vacant if the passenger load and seat capacity permits the same".

"However, the members of the same family may be allowed to sit together," it said.

"If the middle seat/seat between two passengers is occupied due to passenger load, then additional protective equipment like 'wrap around gown' (Ministry of Textiles approved standards) shall be provided to the individual occupying the intervening seat in addition to the three-layer face mask and face shield," the directions said.

"No meals or drinking water shall be served onboard except in extreme circumstances arising due to health reasons," the DGCA said.

It said the embarkation/ disembarkation shall be sequential and passengers shall be advised by airlines to follow the instructions and not to rush to the entry-exit gates. The airline shall ensure orderly entry exit of the passengers.

The authority said that airlines shall set the air-conditioning system in such a way that the air gets replaced at the shortest possible intervals. "Aircraft shall be sanitized after the end of each sector when there is no passenger on board. However, on transit flights, when passengers are on board, the seats (including its contacts) which have been vacated by the passenger shall be sanitized."

At the end of the day, each aircraft shall be deep cleaned as per the procedure prescribed and special attention shall be paid to sanitize the seat belt and all other contact points.

The directions said aeroplane lavatories shall be cleaned/sanitized frequently during the flight. "Airlines shall carry out health check-up of all crew regularly. All flying crew cabin crew shall be given full protective suits. In case of COVID-19 related medical emergency on board, aircraft disinfection shall be carried with special attention to all the affected and adjoining seats."

The directions said that airlines/ airports will explore the possibility of having a disinfection tunnel to ensure the safety of passengers after fully evaluating its health implications on human beings.

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