A midair wedding - with close to 130 wedding guests on board, most of whom were not following Covid protocol - has invited regulatory wrath. The SpiceJet charter flight had taken off from Madurai on Sunday morning. The couple, Meenakshi Rajesh and Dhikshana, got married while the aircraft was airborne for about two hours. They completed the rituals as the plane hovered over Meenakshi Amman temple, before returning to Madurai.
However, the violation of Covid protocol has landed the airline and the guests in trouble. A senior official of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said: “The pilots and cabin crew who operated this flight have been off-rostered (taken off duty). The airline has been directed to lodge complaints against those not following Covid-appropriate behaviour with relevant authorities. We have sought all details from the airline and will conduct a detailed inquiry. Action will be taken based on the outcome of the probe.”
SpiceJet says its Boeing 737 was booked by a travel agent for a “post-wedding joy ride” and that all guests were briefed on the norms to be followed in these times both at the airport and onboard, and no permission was given for any activity on board. It said the group was 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,” said a SpiceJet spokesman.
Sources say the airline/ airport staff should have been able to sense the onboard wedding as people boarded the plane with garlands (varmala), with the bride and groom dressed in their trousseau. “On seeing all this, the wedding party should have been warned beforehand to follow all Covid protocol onboard. The violations could have been avoided,” said sources.
Madurai district administration has also served a notice to the airline and the family which hired the plane, seeking an explanation. District collector Aneesh Sekhar said he has sent notices to SpiceJet and organisers of the marriage under the disaster management act. Further action will be decided after getting a response, he added.
Airport director S Senthil Valavan said the flight was permitted solely based on the request from the flight operator. “I do not want to comment further on the issue since there is already an inquiry going on,” he said. This is not the first time that onboard revelry has landed SpiceJet in the soup. Some years ago, it invited DGCA action for an onboard Holi celebration.