Taking suo moto cognizance on an alarming situation witnessed by a Delhi High Court judge during an Air India flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5, the court on Tuesday issued guidelines for compliance by all airlines, as well as by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
Justice C. Hari Shankar took suo moto cognizance after noticing that many passengers had worn the masks below their chin and were exhibiting a stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly.
“On the cabin crew being questioned in this regard, they stated that they had directed all the passengers to wear masks, but were helpless in case they did not comply,” the court noted.
Justice Shankar 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, the Court directed that action should be taken against the passenger, including placing the passenger on a “no-fly” regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long, period.
The court directed the DGCA to reflect on its website, prominently, the instructions containing the guidelines and protocols to be followed by passengers and in-flight crew in domestic flights.
“The DGCA will ensure that prominence, to the instructions, or to the weblink through which they can, by a single click, be accessed, is accorded, by displaying them in a distinct and different font, blinking or otherwise, or by any other suitable means.”
All airlines have been asked to ensure that, along with the boarding pass, written instructions regarding the protocol to be followed by passengers in flight, including the measures that could be taken against them on failure to follow the protocols, are provided to the passengers.
The passengers should also be duly sensitised regarding their responsibilities, to abide by said protocol, both before as well as after boarding the flight.
The inflight announcements which, presently, merely require the passengers to wear masks at all times, should be modified to include a cautionary word regarding the penal action that could be taken against them in the event of default, the judge directed.
In-flight crew has been asked to 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.