Masks Mandatory on Flights, at Airports Amid Covid Surge; DGCA Asks Airlines to Deboard Violators

Not wearing masks on flights and at airports will now be treated as “unruly” and passengers not complying will be deboarded, India’s civil aviation regulator said on Wednesday. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said that if passengers repeatedly refuse to wear masks and follow Covid-19 protocols they’ll be deboarded ahead of take-off or treated as “unruly”.

The DGCA further said that violators will be fined and handed over to CISF personnel at airports. The advisory, making wearing masks once again compulsory on flights and at airports, comes as the country has been seeing a surge in daily Covid-19 cases since last week.

The 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, the DGCA said. 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

The aviation regulator’s guidelines come after the Delhi High Court last week called for strict action against those found violating masking and hand hygiene norms at airports and in aircraft, observing that the Covid-19 pandemic has not abated and keeps springing up its ugly head.

The high court said all such persons, who are found to be violating these norms, should be booked and fined and be placed on the no-fly list and added that it is essential to introduce sufficient deterrence to enforce compliance with norms.

The court said it has been noticed that very often the norms are not implemented on the ground with the seriousness with which they are framed and therefore, it is essential for the authorities, including the DGCA to ensure that the implementation on the ground is effected properly. For this purpose, we are of the view that the DGCA should give separate binding directions to all airlines to authorise the staff at airports and in aircraft, including air hostesses, captains, pilots and others to take strict action against passengers and others who violate the masking and hand hygiene norms, a bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta said.

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