New Delhi: The civil aviation ministry was not in favour of keeping the middle seats of an aeroplane empty, minister Hardeep Singh Puri had clarified it before domestic flights resumed operations from May 25. It was not mentioned in the SOP issued by the ministry as well. But then DGCA on May 31 issued a circular asking the airlines to keep the middle seats empty as much as possible. Also Read - International Flights: You Can Travel to These Countries Once International Flights Resume Operations
The case has already been heard by the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court. Here is what everyone is saying and how conflicting they are. Also Read - Domestic Flights: Resumption of Services Not Helping Much as People Are Buying One-Way Tickets | 10 Points
1. The ministry does not want middle seats to be empty. Also Read - International Flights: Nine Additional Flights From Sharjah to India | Check Details
2. An Air India pilot had approached the Bombay High Court in May bringing the violation of social distancing aboard as the flights (Vande Bharat) were not keeping middle seats empty.
3. The High Court asked Air India to keep the middle seats vacant.
4. The case reached to the Supreme Court which said Air India can book middle seats for Vande Bharat till June 6. After that, it will abide by the regulations laid by DGCA, Bombay High Court etc.
5. The Bombay High Court went through a report submitted by the civil aviation ministry which said that COVID-19 can not spread just by touching. So, keeping the middle seats empty won’t matter much.
6. The Bombay High Court has recently allowed Air India to book middle seats.
7. Meanwhile, DGCA asked airlines to keep middle seats empty as far as possible. If not possible, then special PPE will be provided to the person occupying the middle seat.
8. Now, everything boils down to the airlines. While Air India Vande Bharat flights will book middle seats, for other domestic flights, there is no hard and fast rule regarding the middle seats.
9. If there is a high demand for seats, then the middle seats can be booked. Otherwise, it can be kept empty.
10. Also, if the members of the same family are occupying all three seats, there is no need to keep the middle seats empty.
With several orders and contradictory guideline — separate for Vande Bharat and domestic flights — it is an area which will likely to become arbitrary and chaotic.