Indian airlines stop giving safety kits to passengers

Monitor Desk Report Date: 08 September, 2021 | 491 Views

Domestic airlines have stopped giving wrap-around gowns to middle-seat passengers following a relaxation granted by the ministry of health. For the first time since the Covid outbreak last year, the ministry issued relaxed guidelines for domestic travel under which airlines don't have to give passengers other protective gear like masks, face shields or hand sanitizers too.

Airlines only have to ensure that passengers are wearing masks/face covers.

"The airline operators shall also keep a reserve of masks, face shield, hand-sanitizer etc for passengers in case of non-availability/such items needs replacement,'' said the revised August 25 guidelines issued by the ministry of health and family welfare, in super session of guidelines issued on May 25, last year.

"There is no requirement of the usage of body coverall/apron for passengers,'' another point in the guideline said.”Presently, we are seeing a declining trajectory of cases across the country after a peak in reported cases during mid-May as part of the second wave,'' it said, citing the reason for relaxation of guidelines.

Air India, in a statement said: "In view of the revised guidelines, it has been decided to discontinue issuance of the safety kit and wrap around gown to passengers with immediate effect. This is applicable only on domestic flights." IndiGo said that "as per the recent govt guidelines, travellers are required to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour which includes use of mask to cover nose and mouth, hand hygiene and physical distancing."

The airline added: " We are adhering to all guidelines and keep a stock of masks and shields inside the cabin to be provided to customers on request." Vistara said: "We are in compliance with all regulations stated by the authorities." GoAir said it cannot comment, citing SEBI regulations given its pending IPO.

Wrap around gowns were the solution proposed last year to reconcile airlines' commercial interests with social distancing requirements. When Covidcases were on the rise in March last year, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) , in a March 23 order instructed airlines to keep the middle seat vacant for social distancing. But soon after air travel was banned. When air travel recommenced in May, the DGCA modified its March 23 order. In a circular issued late in May, it allowed airlines to fill the middle-seat provided they gave the passenger occupying the middle-seat a wrap-around gown.

The matter came up for discussion in the Bombay High Court a petition filed by Air India pilot Capt Deven Kanani against Air India and others praying for vacant middle seats, keeping with social distancing.

The DGCA informed the court that its expert committee had found that providing protective gowns to intervening passengers (passengers who are seated between two persons) would minimise the risk of transmission through an inadvertent touch..and can also be very good means of preventing the spread of virus either by droplets or by touch. The court and later the Supreme Court allowed airlines to fill middle seats so long as the DGCA norms are followed and wrap around gowns are provided to middle seaters.

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