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Airlines urged to keep middle seats empty

(Reuters file photo)

The aviation regulator DGCA on Monday urged airlines to try and keep the middle seats vacant. In case it cannot be done, it added, the passengers should be provided with “wrap-around gowns”.

Social distancing is a big part in the battle against coronavirus.

“Attempts should be made to keep the middle seat empty to the extent possible… If the middle seat is occupied due to high load, the flyer should be provided with a ‘wrap-around gowns’,” said the DGCA.

India resumed domestic flight operations from May 25, kickstarting a gradual reboot of air travel that was halted two months ago on account of a lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The government has capped the air fares for three months (till August). Soon after, possibly as a trade off, the DGCA withdrew its earlier circular on keeping the middle seat vacant on every flight.

The latest move by the regulator seems like an attempt to balance the interests of the airlines and also to protect the fliers.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had also questioned the logic behind allowing bookings for the middle seats on Air India’s non-scheduled relief and rescue flights on international routes.

“How can you say it will not affect anyone? Outside (aircraft), there should be a social distancing of at least 6 feet. Will the Virus know it is in the aircraft and is not supposed to infect?,” the court questioned.

However, it allowed Air India to book middle seats till June 6.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ broadcast on Sunday, warned people against letting their guard down while noting that a big part of the economy has opened and train and flight services have begun operating partially with more relaxations on the anvil.

After such “austere penance and after so many hardships”, the country’s deft handling of the situation should “not go in vain”, he said.

Modi said, “Whether it is the mandatory ‘do gaz ki doori’ (two yards of distancing), wearing face masks or staying at home to the best extent possible, there should be no laxity on our part in complete adherence to the laid down norms.

“We must not let this fight weaken. Becoming careless or lackadaisical cannot be an option. The fight against coronavirus is still equally serious. You, your family, may still face grave danger from coronavirus,” he cautioned.


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