Air passengers not wearing masks can be de-boarded, says DGCA order

The civil aviation regulator said passengers who refuse to abide by the rule and don’t wear masks can be 'de-boarded' or treated as 'unruly passengers'. Delhi high court too ordered for a tough stand to be taken against passengers refusing to follow COVID safety measures

This fresh guideline issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday, June 8, comes in the wake of COVID cases rising once again in different parts of the country

Air passengers will now have to compulsorily wear the mask or risk being de-boarded or treated as an ‘unruly passenger’. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued fresh stringent guidelines on Wednesday (June 8) in the wake of COVID cases rising once again in different parts of the country.

If any passenger refuses to wear mask or follow COVID-19 protocol in a flight mid-air, the airline may bar them from flying for a certain period of time by classifying them as “unruly passenger”, the DGCA said in the circular. The passengers who refuse to abide by the rule and don’t wear masks can be ‘de-boarded’ ahead of take-off.

Besides, airport operators must take help of the local police and security agencies and levy fines on people not wearing face masks in terminals, it noted.

A few days earlier on June 3, the Delhi high court too had ordered that a tough stand must  be taken against passengers who refuse to follow COVID safety measures. The court, which was responding to a petition filed by a sitting judge of the high court from his own experience on a domestic flight, called for strict action in its order, observing that the pandemic is not over.

“DGCA should issue separate binding directions to all staff persons deployed at the airports and in the aircraft, including flight attendants, air hostesses, captains/pilots and others, to take strict action against passengers and others who violate the masking and hygiene norms”, said the court.

Also read: India records 41% spike in daily COVID cases with 5,233 fresh infections

According to the court order, the passenger refusing to comply with COVID rules, can be physically removed, put on a “no-fly” list or be handed over to security agencies for further action. The court said this order is in sync with the fact that the pandemic has not abated and keeps springing up its ugly head.

The DGCAs Wednesday circular said airlines must ensure the passengers wear masks properly on flights and they are removed from faces only “under exceptional circumstances and for permitted reasons”. If a passenger needs an extra face mask, the airline must provide it, it noted. ”

The DGCA in its Wednesday order also said that the airline should ensure that in the eventuality of a passenger not adhering to instructions even after repeated warnings, he/she should be de-boarded, if need be, before departure.

And, in the case of a passenger on board an aircraft refusing to wear mask or violating the “COVID-19 Protocol for passengers” even after repeated warnings, during the course of the flight, such passenger may be treated as “Unruly Passenger.”

The DGCA regulations give powers to airlines to ban passengers for a certain period of time after they have been declared “unruly”. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and other police personnel deployed at the entrance of the airport must ensure that no one is allowed to enter the premises without wearing a mask, it said.

Also read: Karnataka may impose COVID control measures as cases spike: CM

All airport operators must increase announcements and surveillance to ensure that passengers at terminal are wearing face masks properly and following COVID-appropriate behaviour at all times within the airport premises, it noted.

“In case any passenger does not wear mask or refuses to wear mask and follow COVID-19 protocol, he should be fined as per the respective state law where the airport is located and he may even be handed over to security agencies,” it said.

Airport operators must take sanitisation measures at airports and provide hand sanitisers or dispensers at prominent places in the terminal, it noted. “Also, airport operators shall levy fines on those violating COVID-19 protocols in accordance with state regulations with the help of local police and security agencies for violation of COVID-19 protocols,” it added.

When Centre resumed scheduled domestic flights on May 25, 2020, after a two-month-long lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DGCA had made it mandatory for passengers to wear masks and follow other COVID-19 protocol inside airport and aircraft.