New Delhi:

Seeking to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols by air travellers, aviation regulator DGCA on Saturday asked airlines to deboard passengers who do not wear their mask "properly" despite repeated warnings.

Also, the watchdog has directed airlines to treat a passenger as "unruly" in case the person violates the protocols.

The latest directives come against the backdrop of rising number of coronavirus cases in certain parts of the country even as domestic air traffic is improving.

In a circular issued on Saturday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has also directed the airport operators to ensure that the passengers wear their mask and maintain social distancing norms at all times during the air travel.

The DGCA said it has been noticed that some travellers undertaking air journey do not adhere to "COVID-19 protocols", which essentially involve wearing of masks properly — not below the nose, right from entering the departing airport to exiting from the arriving airport.

Observing that some passengers after entering the airport do not wear their mask properly and maintain social distance while being in the airport, the regulator said that some passengers have been noticed not wearing their masks properly while on board the aircraft.

"On board the aircraft, in case any passenger does not adhere to wearing a mask properly even after repeated warnings, he/she should be de-boarded, if need be, before departure," the circular said.

"In the case of any passenger on board an aircraft refusing to wear a mask or violates the 'COVID-19 Protocol for passengers' even after repeated warnings, during the course of the flight, such passengers may be treated as 'Unruly' passengers, as per the DGCA.

The procedure in respect of handling such unruly passengers will be followed by the airline concerned as per the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR), it added.

The circular said that the passengers will wear masks and maintain social distancing norms at all times during air travel, adding the mask shall not be moved below the nose except under exceptional circumstances.

Directing the CISF/ police personnel deployed at the entrance of the airport to ensure that no one is allowed to enter the airport without wearing a mask, it said that chief airport security officer and other supervising officers must ensure this personally.

In case any passenger found violating COVID-19 protocols at the airport, they should be handed over to security agencies after proper warnings, directive said.

"If required, they may be dealt as per law," the circular added.