The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has launched an investigation into a case of 161 passengers on board a chartered SpiceJet flight flouting onboard Covid norms while attending a mid-air wedding ceremony on Sunday.

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 flight, operated by SpiceJet and chartered by a Madurai businessman, took off from Madurai and landed back in the city after a two-hour “joy ride” on Sunday, with the couple and their relatives and friends on board.

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 news agency.

The bride is decked with flowers and jewellery and the groom is in traditional south Indian attire.

There are more visuals that show people sitting and enjoying the function inside the aircraft. Most of them are without face masks and there is no social distancing in what seems to be a packed flight.

“A SpiceJet chartered flight was booked yesterday from Madurai. Airport Authority officials were unaware of the mid-air marriage ceremony”, Madurai Airport Director, S Senthil Valavan, was quoted.

In a statement, SpiceJet said the flight was chartered by a travel agent on May 23 for what was claimed to be a post-wedding joyride. “The client was clearly briefed on Covid guidelines to be followed and denied permission for any activity to be performed on board. 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,” said the private airline.

“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 spokesperson.

Tamil Nadu is currently under lockdown till May 31 due to prevailing Covid-19 restrictions.

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