The Government of India and Air India was sued a few days ago by an Air India pilot who took note of the fact that Air India was not maintaining distancing on its planes for international repatriation flights by keeping the middle-seat empty. The Bombay High Court, where the case was filed, asked to keep the middle-seat empty on repatriation flights. Subsequently, the Supreme Court, where the case was challenged, said for the time being Air India could fly with the middle-seats full but the regulator had to change the rules by June 2.
The DGCA, India’s aviation regulator, on June 1, changed the rules and asked airlines to allot seats in flights in a manner that middle-seats were kept vacant to the extent possible. However, if they did have to put someone in the Middle Seat, the airline should provide a “wrap-around gown” to those occupying the middle-seat in a plane.
A lot of aviation people have long argued about the effectiveness of physical distancing on a plane, with the aircraft anyways being fitted with much better quality air filters than anything is seen around us (apart from hospitals) and the plane is too small to maintain prescribed norms of physical distancing. With 45% occupancy on planes, there is anyways enough place to distance passengers from one another.
The new norm will come in effect on June 3, which is tomorrow. We should also hear from the Bombay High Court if this should be good enough for them to allow Air India to fill the planes on the repatriation flights back to India in full.
I know the world is a divided place on the middle seat in flight open discussion, but I hope this settles it for the time being. What do you make of the new move to provide PPE-lite to middle-seat flyers?