Plane wedding: DGCA must act, say experts

‘Scapegoating pilots and cabin crew not right’

The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) must punish SpiceJet for the mid-air wedding on Sunday over Madurai instead of scapegoating pilots and cabin crew who were only following the instructions given to them by their airline, say aviation safety experts.

“The wedding party onboard SpiceJet’s plane could not have been organised without the full knowledge of the company. It was a pre-planned flight, which involved a route that had to be specially programmed, and included manual orbitting over Tenkasi,” said aviation safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan.

“The special route taken by the pilots indicates they had specific instructions from the operations team in the airline. For the company to say they didn’t know there were going to be rituals performed onboard is a pure lie,” Mr. Ranganathan noted.

‘Biggest violation’

A former DGCA official, who has overseen flight safety issues, said,“The biggest violation by the airline is allowing a wedding group of more than 160 people when wedding events of more than 50 are banned by the State.”

SpiceJet on Monday said a travel agent in Madurai chartered a plane for a post wedding “joy ride” and it had denied permission for conducting any activity onboard as well as briefed its client on COVID-19 protocols to be followed. The DGCA has derostered the plane crew and ordered a detailed investigation into the incident for violation of COVID-19 protocols. The photos viral on social media show the bride and groom exchanging garlands in a packed aircraft, carrying more than 160 passengers.

However, none of the passengers can be seen wearing face visors and PPE suits, which are mandatory for passengers occupying the middle seats.

‘Special instructions?’

The ex-DGCA official said, “The DGCA has repeatedly warned airlines that passengers violating COVID-19 protocols must be offloaded and put on no-fly list. If neither the cabin crew nor pilots took action against the passengers, there is a need to probe whether they had special instructions to look the other way.”

Experts also argue that the incident highlights the lack of proper oversight on chartered flights.

“The rules and protocols that apply for regular passenger flights are often not enforced for non-scheduled or chartered operations. There are many loopholes. It is likely that the airline will be let off without any penalty under the same excuse,” the former DGCA official observed.

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