Indian couple charter entire flight for 170-guest mid-air wedding to get around Covid restrictions

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<p>The visuals from a video of the mid-air wedding shows a plane packed with maskless guests as couple exchanged garlands</p> (Screengrab)

The visuals from a video of the mid-air wedding shows a plane packed with maskless guests as couple exchanged garlands

(Screengrab)

A couple in India booked an entire flight for a mid-air wedding to avoid Covid-19 restrictions, but has ended up in even more trouble after videos from the gala event in the skies went viral on social media.

The aviation regulator of India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Monday ordered an investigation into the wedding which took place aboard a SpiceJet aircraft and suspended the crew involved.

The couple from southern India’s Madurai city in Tamil Nadu booked the entire SpiceJet flight for a few hours to hold their extravagant wedding in the presence of family and friends even as lockdown continued in their state and across most of India.

The couple reportedly exchanged wedding vows in the presence of about 170 guests and family members at the moment the plane was over the Meenakshi Amman temple, one of Tamil Nadu’s best-known.

The visuals of the ceremony showed the plane packed with guests as the couple, clad in wedding attire, exchanged garlands and a camera operator filmed the moment.

But the wedding comes in the middle of a raging global pandemic and at a time when most states are under lockdown restrictions to break the chain of transmission in the second wave. India’s overall death toll from Covid-19 has crossed 300,000, and though the daily infection rate is slowing down it is still adding hundreds of thousands of new cases in each 24-hour period.

The wedding came under a torrent of criticism as people on social media blasted the guests for not wearing masks and not following social distancing as much of the country struggles with the health crisis.

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A DGCI official said: “We have de-rostered the crew and directed the airline to lodge a complaint against those not following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour with relevant authorities. We will take strict action.”

The official said that the airline has been directed to lodge a complaint against the guests at the wedding for not following Covid rules.

Madurai airport director S Senthil Valavan said the airport authorities were unaware of the mid-air wedding but they knew the chartered flight was booked from Madurai.

Indian air carrier Spicejet also said that they were unaware of the actual intentions of their client and the flight was booked for the purpose of “post-wedding joyride.”

"The client was clearly briefed on Covid guidelines to be followed and denied permission for any activity to be performed on board,” said SpiceJet in a statement.

“The agent and the guest passengers were briefed in detail, both in writing as well as verbally, on social distancing and safety norms to be followed as per Covid guidelines both at the airport and on board the aircraft throughout the journey," it added.

The couple was called out on social media and said it can turn out to be a super spreader event.

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Tamil Nadu has been placed under lockdown restriction till 31 May as the state continues to report a rising number of cases. Close to 10,000 fresh cases were reported in the state over the 24 hours ending Monday morning.

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The number of guests allowed at weddings is also capped at 100 per wedding in Tamil Nadu while following social distancing norms.

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