An Indian couple chartered an airliner and held a mid-air wedding ceremony attended by 160 guests to get round Covid-19 restrictions in their home town.
The couple from Madurai, in southern Tamil Nadu state, booked the SpiceJet Boeing 737 flight to Bangalore, in neighbouring Karnataka state, to exchange their vows on Sunday, but are now facing an inquiry after videos of the event went viral.
Tamil Nadu is under a severe wave of coronavirus and has restricted gatherings, including weddings, to 50 people.
The couple, identified as Rakesh and Dakshina, exchanged garlands and performed Hindu rituals as the aircraft flew over the revered Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, on its two-hour flight.
Videos on social media showed the couple in their wedding finery posing before cameras, as scores of mask-less guests filled the aisle.
SpiceJet said that its staff warned the guests about the event as domestic airlines make it mandatory for passengers to wear masks and maintain social distance during flights.
The videos led the country's aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, to launch an investigation. It suspended the flight crew pending an inquiry.
“DGCA has initiated investigations on the mid-air marriage," the authority said.
"It has sought a full report from the airline and Airport Authority. The SpiceJet crew is off-rostered."
The regulatory body also asked the airline to file a complaint against the people on board who were not following Covid-19 rules.
Indian weddings are known for their grandeur and elaborate ceremonies but the pandemic has dampened the celebrations, with most states limiting guests and ceremonies.
India on Sunday passed 300,000 Covid-19 deaths as it continues to reel under a second wave of the pandemic that has overwhelmed its healthcare system.
It was unclear whether the couple held further ceremonies on their return.
SpiceJet said the couple had booked the plane from Madurai to Bangalore through a travel agent for a “joy ride” after their wedding.
“The client was clearly briefed on Covid guidelines to be followed and denied permission for any activity to be performed on-board,” SpiceJet said.
The Indian government has tightened its aviation rules in recent years to handle unruly and disruptive passengers, and created a national no-fly list to keep a track of such travellers.
Penalties can include a domestic flying ban of between three months and two years.
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