Flyers wearing masks incorrectly be put on no-fly list: Delhi HC tells DGCA

The DGCA has been instructed to prominently display on its website guidelines and protocols to be followed by passengers on the flight
A Delhi High Court judge, on board Air India’s Kolkata-Delhi flight on March 5, has issued a set of guidelines that empowers airline cabin crew to offload ‘without delay’ delinquent passengers who wear their masks on the chin and be put on a ‘no-fly’ list if they exhibit ‘stubborn reluctance’.

Justice C Hari Shankar took note of the alleged callous attitude of passengers and passed directions to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) — the country’s aviation regulator.

“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 the guidelines issued by the DGCA or the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, including placing the passenger on a no-fly regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long period,” the court said.

The judge in his order said many passengers on the Kolkata-Delhi flight had worn their masks incorrectly and shown resistance when pulled up by the cabin crew. The cabin crew said it was helpless in implementing the mandated protocol.

“Such a situation, in the present scenario, when the country is seeing a resurgence of Covid cases, after they had shown signs of ebbing, is completely unconscionable,” he said.

The DGCA has been instructed to prominently display on its website guidelines and protocols to be followed by in-flight passengers. Written instructions should be provided to all passengers while issuing a boarding pass.

The order said it will be the duty of the cabin crew to ensure compliance of all protocols and it shall carry out periodic checks to see all passengers are wearing their face masks correctly.

“The court has asked Air India and the DGCA to submit a compliance report at the next hearing,” said Anjana Gosain, a lawyer for the DGCA.

A senior executive of the DGCA said while the aviation authorities have been proactive in issuing directions for safe air travel, following the court order, the regulator will prominently display the Covid protocols on its website and issue guidelines to airlines to educate passengers to follow the same.

Since domestic civil aviation operations recommenced in a calibrated manner from May 25, 2020, after a two-month suspension, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA have come out with elaborate protocols on the mandatory use of face masks and maintaining social distancing in airport terminals and inside the aircraft.

The executive said airlines already have the power to put disruptive passengers on a no-fly list. “If a passenger is being disorderly and not adhering to the directions of the cabin crew, which includes not following Covid protocols, the airline reserves the right to ban the passenger under the unruly passenger guidelines,” said the executive.

India’s no-fly list rules, unveiled in 2017, have the provision to ban a disobedient passenger from three months to a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the episode.

In fact, India’s largest airline IndiGo last year had barred nine television journalists from flying with the airline for 15 days over their alleged raucous behaviour on-board a flight in which actor Kangana Ranaut was travelling to Mumbai from Chandigarh in September.

The journalists, while chasing Ranaut for a soundbite, had violated social distancing norms on board.

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