NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Bombay high court’s order allowing flights to operate without leaving the middle seat vacant.
The high court had held that adequate safety measures had been deployed for safety and health of passengers and it was not required to keep the middle seat vacant. The court had, however, said airlines should strictly comply with the regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation's guidelines to prevent the spread of covid-19.
Air India pilot Devan Kanani had challenged the high court’s order in the apex court.
The 31 May circular of DGCA had stated that the passengers travelling in the middle seat would be provided with a wraparound gown along with mask and face shield. Additionally, the airlines would endeavor to keep family or those travelling together to be allotted seats together.
The petitioner had alleged that Air India was not following safety protocols and it was in violation of the 23 March circular issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The Centre and Air India had opposed these arguments in the high court and Supreme Court.
A senior official with a no-frill airline welcomed the apex court's decision adding that air travel is currently the safest mode of transport and further restrictions could hit the industry hard.
"DGCA has already directed airlines to provide PPE gowns to passengers seated on middle seats if such seats can't be kept empty. Airlines are currently following the DGCA mandate," the senior official said requesting anonymity.
IndiGo's chief commercial officer Willy Boulter on Thursday had said in a webinar that the airline keeps middle seats vacant on empty flights while it follows the DGCA directions of providing PPE gown to middle seat passengers on flights that are full.
"There were some talks about keeping the middle seat empty. It's not economic from the airlines point of view," Boulter had added.