The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Saturday issued guidelines, saying that passengers who do not wear masks properly despite repeated warnings will be de-boarded amid the coronavirus crisis. The aviation regulator also said that such flyers may also be treated as “unruly passengers”.

This came after the Delhi High Court on Monday issued guidelines for immediate compliance to all airlines and the DGCA to take action against passengers who fail to follow protocols.

In a circular, the aviation regulator said some travellers do not follow the guidelines, which essentially involve wearing of masks properly not below the nose, right from entering airport for departure to exiting it.

“It has also been noted that some passengers after entering the airport do not wear mask properly and also do not maintain social distance while being in the airport premises,” the circular said. “On board the aircraft, in case any passenger does not adhere to wearing a mask properly even after repeated warnings, he/she should be de-boarded, if need be, before departure.”

The aviation watchdog directed passengers to wear masks at all times and maintain physical distance. It specified that the masks should not be below the nose except under “exceptional circumstances”.

“CISF [Central Industrial Security Force] and other police personnel deployed at the entrance of the airport shall ensure that no one is allowed to enter the airport without wearing a mask,” the DGCA said.

It also directed airport authorities to ensure that the passengers are wearing masks properly and adhering to physical distancing norms. “In case any passenger found violating Covid-19 protocols at the airport, they should be handed over to security agencies after proper warnings,” the directive said. “If required they may be dealt as per law.”

It further warned that strict action will be taken in case of any violation of the directions.

Delhi High Court order

This follows a order by Justice C Hari Shankar of the Delhi High Court. The judge saw fellow passengers on a Kolkata to New Delhi flight failing to follow the coronavirus guidelines and refusing to wear masks properly. He filed a suo motu writ petition because of an “alarming situation”.

“It was noticed that, though all the passengers had worn masks, many passengers had worn the masks below their chin and were exhibiting a stubborn reluctance to wear their masks properly,” he said. “This behaviour was seen not only in the bus transporting the passengers from the airport to the flight but also within the flight itself.”

Justice Shankar said if any passenger is unwilling to follow this protocol prior to the flight taking off, he or she should be offloaded without delay. If, despite being reminded, they refuse to follow the protocol, action should be taken against the passenger in accordance with the guidelines issued by the DGCA or the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This includes placing passengers on a “no-fly” regimen, either permanently or for a stipulated, sufficiently long, period.

India on Saturday recorded 24,882 new coronavirus cases, taking the overall count to 1,13,33,728. This marked the highest single-day rise in nearly three months. The country’s toll rose to 1,58,446 as 140 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.