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Govt permits meals on flights; airlines can put flyers on no-fly list for refusing to wear mask

The government has permitted the airlines to serve pre-packed snacks, meals and beverages on domestic flights and hot meals on international flights, according to an official order. Moreover, any passenger who refuses to wear a face mask in a flight can be put on the no-fly list by the airline, said a senior official of the aviation regulator DGCA.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in-flight meal service was not permitted on domestic flights since their resumption on May 25. On international flights, only pre-packed cold meals and snacks were being served depending on the flight duration since May this year.

In an order issued on Thursday, the Civil Aviation Ministry said, “Airlines may serve pre-packed snacks/meals/pre-packed beverages on domestic flights depending on the duration of flight.” Airlines and charter flight operators can “serve hot meals and limited beverages” on international flights “as per the standard practices”, it added.

The ministry said only single-use disposable trays, plates and cutlery should be used while serving food or beverages in domestic and international flights. “Crew shall wear a fresh set of gloves for every meal/beverage service,” it noted. The ministry also permitted the aircraft operators to let passengers use the in-flight entertainment system on international as well as domestic flights wherever available.

“Disposable earphones or cleaned and disinfected headphones will be provided to passengers at the start of the journey,” it noted. Meanwhile, a senior official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, “A passenger who refuses to wear a face mask can be put on no-fly list by the airline.”

The official said no new order has been passed in this regard as the airline and its cabin crew are sufficiently empowered under the existing DGCA rules to take action. As per the DGCA rules, an airline can choose to put an unruly passenger on its no-fly list after internal deliberations. Subsequently, other airlines may follow suit in putting that passenger on their no-fly lists.

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, special international flights have been operating under the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ and bilateral air bubble arrangements that have been signed with various countries.

Domestic flights resumed in India on May 25 after a gap of two months in view of the pandemic. However, airlines are allowed to operate 45 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic flights.

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