Published: 18th March 2021
What the FAQ: What are the new COVID protocols for travelling on planes. When can a passenger be de-boarded?
The DGCA has directed all airlines to make passengers aware of the new protocols and the consequences of their violations through various methods. Let's find out more
For the first time ever, four passengers on board Alliance Air's Jammu-Delhi flight on Tuesday were deboarded for not wearing masks properly inside the aircraft after repeated warnings by the cabin crew. They were charged as ‘unruly/disruptive passengers’ and handed over to the security agencies at Delhi Airport. This is the first such instance after the Director-General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) order issued last week asked the airport authorities and airlines to take strict action against those not complying with COVID-19 protocols at airports and inside planes.
Here, we lay down the DGCA's orders in detail, answer the most important questions on what to follow, when you can be de-boarded from a flight and more.
What are the recent DGCA's orders for passengers travelling on planes amid the pandemic?
Ans: Passengers shall wear masks and maintain social distancing norms at all times during air travel. The mask shall not be moved below the nose except under exceptional circumstances.
- CISF or other Police personnel deployed at the entrance of the airport shall ensure that no one is allowed to enter the airport without wearing a mask. CASO and other supervising officers must ensure this personally.
- The Airport Director/Terminal Manager, as applicable, must ensure that passengers are wearing masks properly and do maintain social distancing at all times within the Airport premises. In case, any passenger is not following the 'COVID-19 Protocol', they should be handed over to security agencies after proper warnings. If required, they may be dealt with as per law.
- Onboard the aircraft, in case any passenger does not adhere to wearing of mask properly even after repeated warnings, he/she should be de-boarded, if need be, before departure. In case, any passenger onboard an aircraft refuses to wear a mask or violates the 'COVID-19 Protocol for passengers' even after repeated warnings, during the course of the flight, they may be treated as 'Unruly Passenger'.
- The adherence to the above directions shall be ensured by all concerned with immediate effect. Strict action shall be taken in case of any violation.
While travelling how will you as a passenger know what protocols to follow?
Ans: In another circular dated March 13, the DGCA directed all airlines to provide the detailed protocol guidelines to the passengers in digitised form along with ticket and also with E-Boarding or normal boarding passes, as applicable. They have also directed airlines to make the passengers aware of the COVID-19 protocol, ensure their strict compliance and also caution them about the consequences of non-compliance with these guidelines at the boarding gate and in the aircraft by way of frequent announcements. "All stakeholders are also directed to disseminate these guidelines at prominent places and give wide publicity to the same," the DGCA said in their official announcement.
Why did the DGCA come up with stricter guidelines now?
Ans: In a flight from Kolkata to New Delhi on March 5, 2021, it was found that, though all the passengers had worn masks, many passengers had worn the masks below their chin and were exhibiting a stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly. This behaviour was seen not only in the bus transporting the passengers from the airport to the flight but also within the flight itself. Despite the cabin crew asking them multiple times, their efforts were all in vain. Commenting on the situation, the Delhi High Court recently stated that such a situation, "in the present scenario, when the country is seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases after they had shown signs of ebbing, is completely unconscionable. Passengers in a flight are in a closed air-conditioned environment, and, even if one of the passengers suffers from COVID, the effect on other passengers could be cataclysmic." The Court had also asked the DGCA to provide more clarity to airlines and passengers on their stringent protocols and their consequences, following which the civil aviation authority directed airlines to provide passengers more clarity on the same.