A wedding in the skies has invited the wrath of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), who on Monday suspended the crew of a SpiceJet chartered plane after a wedding ceremony aboard the aircraft, over the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, in violation of COVID-19 norms.
SpiceJet has been ordered to file an FIR against the errant passengers.
Wedding Videos Go Viral
On Monday morning, pictures and videos of the wedding ceremony went viral on social media. It showed the bride and groom exchanging garlands surrounded by relatives and camerapersons. Many could be seen without masks, a new report in The Hindu said.
Wedding rituals were performed as the aircraft hovered over Madurai Meenakshi temple in the presence of over 160 relatives in the flight- aviation website flightradar24 shows the plane circling above the temple, the newspaper report added.
“We have derostered the crew and directed the airline to lodge a complaint against those not following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour with relevant authorities. We will take strict action,” a DGCA official said, adding that they were examining if the use of cameras onboard violated safety protocols.
In March, after being pulled up the Delhi High Court, the DGCA ordered airlines to ensure that passengers comply with COVID-19 norms on mask-wearing and social distancing. It said that if passengers did not pay heed, they must be removed from the aircraft and put on a no-fly list.
“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 airline said in response to a query.
In a statement, SpiceJet said a travel agent had asked for a chartered flight for a group of passengers for a joy ride after their wedding. They were informed about COVID-19 guidelines and refused permission for other activities onboard, the airline said.
“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-19 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 airline said.
According to reports, the flight, which flew to Bengaluru from Madurai, was booked by the couple for their wedding ceremony. The couple reportedly tied the knot when the plane crossed the historic Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai.
Speaking to ANI, Madurai airport director S Senthil Valavan said, “A SpiceJet chartered flight was booked yesterday from Madurai. Airport authority officials unaware of the mid-air marriage ceremony.”
This, however, is not the first time that such an incident has happened. In 2014 there was a Holi dance on another SpiceJet flight when the airline came under the DGCA’s scrutiny for allowing the dance, moneycontrol reported.
According to the guidelines, the in-flight crew must carry out periodical checks of the aircraft to ensure that all passengers are complying with the protocol to be followed during the flight, especially regarding the wearing of masks. The guidelines also made it clear that masks should be worn as directed by governmental instructions, covering the nose and mouth, and not worn merely covering the mouth or below the chin.
Passengers flouting these rules should be offloaded immediately, according to the rules laid down by the court. “If a passenger, despite being reminded more than once in flight, refuses to follow this protocol, action should be taken against the passenger in accordance with the guidelines issued by the DGCA or Ministry of Health and Family Welfare …,” the Court guidelines said.