All four travellers have been handed over to security agencies on arrival in Delhi.
The airline has initiated action against them under ‘unruly’ flyer rules. This could mean a ban on their flying on at least Alliance Air for some time.
According to sources, four passengers on 9I-614 Jammu-Delhi refused to wear masks despite being repeatedly being asked to do so by the pilots and cabin crew.
“Four passengers who were seated on 14B, 14C, 15C and 15D were not wearing their masks on this flight. Repeated instructions were made by the crew including the pilot in command (Captain Vikas Tomer) through public announcement system. They were not following the Covid-19 related protocols despite the repeated instructions. These four passengers were treated as unruly passengers (as per DGCA rules) and all the recommended procedures were followed by the crew. All the four unruly passengers were handed over to security agencies on arrival at Delhi airport,” said sources.
Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, has reported the matter to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Comments have been sought from the airline and are awaited.
Earlier this week, the DGCA had directed airlines to provide passengers a digital copy of its circular issued on March 13 — that laid down pandemic travel protocols, emphasising on social distancing and wearing masks properly at all times — “along with ticket and also with electronic or normal boarding card, as applicable”.
The regulator had also directed airlines to make passengers aware of the travel protocol, ensure their strict compliance and consequences for wilfully violating them.
Airlines have been asked to sensitise passengers of these steps through frequent boarding gate and onboard announcements. Airports have also been asked to display the protocol prominently.
The DGCA action follows an order by the Delhi high court on March 8 after Justice C Hari Shankar observed an “alarming situation” — a blatant violation of Covid protocol by passengers — while travelling on an Air India flight from Kolkata to Delhi on March 5.
“…constrained to pass the present order because of (that) alarming situation,” Justice Shankar said while passing a landmark judgment three days later to ensure passengers follow all Covid protocols.
The cabin crew of that flight had told him that while they directed all passengers to wear masks properly, “but were helpless in case they did not comply”.
The high court order said: “In-flight crew shall 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. It is 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, action should be taken against the passenger in accordance with (DGCA) guidelines, including placing the passenger on a ‘no-fly’ regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long, period,” the order added.
The court also directed all concerned authorities “to accord adequate publicity to these guidelines, so that there is strict compliance therewith.”
Following this order, the DGCA issued a string of directives last Saturday. It directed security agencies not to allow airport entry to passengers who are not wearing masks; asked airlines to deboard passengers who refuse to wear masks properly before take off and begin action under unruly flyer rules for those do not wear a mask properly inflight.
Once classified as unruly, a person can be barred for flying for anywhere up to a lifetime depending on the gravity of violation of safety norms by him or her.
“In case, any passenger is not following Covid-19 protocol (that includes nor wearing masks properly or not following social distancing norms), they should be handed over to security agencies after proper warnings. If required, they may be dealt as per law,” DGCA’s last Saturday order to all airlines, airport operators and security agencies to ensure “strict compliance of Covid-19 protocol during air travel,” said.