Indian couple rent Spicejet plane for Covid-19 lockdown-busting mid-air wedding

A video of on-board celebrations posted on social media show people with flowers around their necks and taking selfies. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM TWITTER

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian couple chartered a passenger jet to stage a mid-air wedding that hijacked coronavirus restrictions by taking more than 160 guests, reports said Monday (May 24).

India's civil aviation authority has ordered an investigation and suspended the crew of the jet, officials said.

Because of a brutal new coronavirus wave - that saw India's death toll pass 300,000 on Monday - most states only allow 50 guests at weddings, but 161 friends and family of the newlyweds were on the jet on Sunday.

The couple, who have not been named, were married as the Spicejet plane flew over the historic Meenakshi Amman temple on its way from Madurai to Bangalore, the Hindustan Times newspaper said.

Film and photos of the on-board celebrations were posted on social media. They show people with flowers around their necks and taking selfies, but could not be immediately verified by AFP.

In breach of civil aviation rules, hardly any of them are wearing masks and social distancing rules are blatantly ignored.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has told Spicejet to take action against the newlyweds and their guests, reports said. All could be banned from taking passenger flights.

"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 guidelines both at the airport and on board the aircraft throughout the journey," a Spicejet spokesman told Indian media.

"Despite repeated requests and reminders, the passengers did not follow Covid guidelines and the airline is taking appropriate action as per rules," the official added.

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Several states have imposed tough lockdowns over the past six weeks as India suffers a devastating coronavirus wave that has seen more than 120,000 deaths.

With more than 26 million cases now recorded, Indian hospitals have been overwhelmed and experts say the toll is certainly much higher.

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