Days after the Supreme Court directed that the safety and social distancing norms should be followed in aircraft, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), here on Monday, asked airlines to keep the middle seats of a row vacant if the passenger load and seat capacity allowed.
If the middle seat was occupied owing to passenger load, additional protective equipment, like 'wrap around gowns', be provided to people occupying those seats in addition to the three-layered face mask and face shield, the aviation regulator said in a circular.
"The 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. However, the members of same family may be allowed to sit together," it said.
The DGCA circular noted that the recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of Civil Aviation by the expert committee, constituted by the Ministry in pursuance of the observation of the Supreme Court and in interest of the safety of passengers.
On May 25, the Supreme Court said there couldn't be two norms -- six feet social distancing outside and shoulder to shoulder travel on flights. "The government should worry about the health of citizens than the health of commercial airlines," it said.
"We make it clear that the DGCA is free to alter any norm, it may consider necessary, during the pendency of the matter in the interest of public health and safety of the passengers rather than commercial considerations," the court said.
The DGCA circular also said airlines would have to provide passengers safety kits, including three-layered surgical mask, face shield and adequate sanitiser in bottles or sachets.
No drinks or drinking water be served on board, except in extreme circumstances arising due to health reasons, it added.
Airlines have been asked to set the air-conditioning system in a way that air is replaced at the shortest possible intervals, and clean and sanitise plane lavatories frequently during the flight.
Among other directives, the DGCA asked airlines and airports to explore the possibility of having a disinfection tunnel after evaluating its health impact on human beings.
The new directives will come into effect from Wednesday.
The domestic commercial flights started after two months on May 25. International flights will not resume till end of June. A decision to restart services will be taken by the Centre in July, depending upon circumstances prevailing at that time.