Recently, the central government issued detailed guidelines for resumption of domestic air travel across country. While the guidelines make it mandatory to maintain social distancing at airports, they say nothing about the same on the flights.
This means that no provision has been made for keeping the centre seat vacant while taking bookings for flight travel.
The Supreme Court, today, took this matter into cognizance and ordered Air India to not take advance bookings for the middle seats on international flights being run for Indians stranded abroad for the time being.
It has allowed the airline to operate with full capacity only for next 10 days, till June 6, after which the matter will be decided by the Bombay HC.
The court was hearing a petition with regard to the Bombay HC's order mandating Air India to keep middle seats vacant while flying Indians stranded abroad.
Passing its order, the apex court said that the government should worry more about the health of citizens rather than the health of commercial airlines.
Chief Justice SA Bobde, was also quoted saying:
Outside, there should be a social distancing of at least six feet, and inside you’re eliminating even middle seat difference.
When the government counsel argued that medical and aviation experts say keeping the middle seats vacant will make no difference in aircraft, CJI Bobde raised an important question:
How can you say it will not affect anyone? Will the virus know it’s in the aircraft and it’s not supposed to infect?
The court also maintained the same thing for domestic flights that resumed on 25th May.
It said that there's no difference between international and domestic flights and social distancing should be maintained in domestic travel at any cost.