Last Updated: May 25, 2021, 1607 hrs

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has launched an investigation into a case of 161 passengers on board a chartered SpiceJet flight flouting onboard Covid norms while attending a mid-air wedding ceremony on Sunday.

The flight was operated by SpiceJet and chartered by a Madurai businessman which took off with the couple and their relatives and friends on board from Madurai and landed back in the city after a two-hour “joy ride” on Sunday.

On Monday the videos that surfaced on the social media showed the passengers without masks and face shields and non compliance of Covid Protocols.

In the month of March, the DGCA had issued a circular to all airlines, airports and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to treat passengers who violate Covid-19 protocol, despite repeated warnings during the course of the flight, as “unruly passengers”.

This meant that passengers who do not wear their masks appropriately or follow social distancing norms during a flight could land on the no-fly list for at least three months.

It is received from sources that, the flight hovered over Madurai’s Meenakshi Amman temple as the couple completed the marriage rituals. Tamil Nadu which is presently under lockdown, only allows for a maximum of 50 people to attend wedding celebrations

“The crew of the flight has been off-rostered and the airline has been directed to lodge a complaint with relevant authorities against those not following Covid-appropriate behaviour,” a senior DGCA official said, adding that the aviation safety regulator was conducting an inquiry into the incident “and shall take strict action”.

In a statement, a SpiceJet spokesperson said, “A SpiceJet Boeing 737 was chartered by a travel agent in Madurai on May 23, 2021, for a group of passengers for a joy ride post their wedding. The client was clearly briefed on Covid guidelines to be followed and denied permission for any activity to be performed on board. The approval for this flight was taken as a joy ride for the wedding group.”

“The agent and the guest passengers were briefed in detail, both in writing as well as verbally, on social distancing and safety norms to be followed as per Covid guidelines both at the airport and onboard the aircraft throughout the journey. The group was repeatedly briefed on the safety norms to be followed by the operating cabin crew and advised to follow the protocols laid down by DGCA including restrictions on photography and videography. Despite repeated requests and reminders, the passengers did not follow Covid guidelines and the airline is taking appropriate action as per rules,” the spokesperson added.

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