Mumbai, June 5: The Bombay High Court has allowed domestic airlines to fill up middle seats in aircraft in strict compliance with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) May 31 order and other applicable rules.

The high court issued the order on Friday while hearing a petition filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani who said social distancing was not being maintained on flights as the airline was filling up all the seats, Business Standard reported.

“The flight operators including Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 (Air India and Air India Express) shall allow the passengers to occupy the middle seat strictly in compliance with the circular dated May 31, 2020 and the applicable SOPs / circulars / guidelines issued from time to time by the concerned authorities,” a division bench of Justice S P Tavade and Justice S J Kathawalla said in their interim order.

On May 31, the DGCA instructed the airlines to allot seats in flights in such a manner that the middle seat between two passengers was kept vacant to the extent possible. In case it was not possible to keep seat vacant due to high loads, the airline shall arrange for a gown for the middle seat passenger, the regulator had said.

The regulator had modified it’s guidelines after Supreme Court asked it to frame rules in interest of public health and not commercial interests alone. The apex court had remanded the matter to Bombay High Court asking it to pass an effective interim order after hearing all sides.

“The order brings relief to Air India and Air India Express which had been permitted by the Supreme Court to allot middle seats on the Vande Bharat Mission flights till June 6” said Ravi Kini, managing partner of M V Kini & Company which appeared for Air India.

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