Government proposes upto 2-year ban on unruly air passengers

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Government proposes upto 2-year ban on unruly air passengers
Government proposes upto 2-year ban on unruly air passengers

New Delhi : The government on Friday announced draft rules for a national 'no-fly list' that bans unruly passengers from domestic air travel from three months to two years or beyond depending on the level of offense.

Civil Aviation Minster Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha and Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey sought consulations from the public and the industry stakeholders on the draft guidelines.

The ministry has put forth the proposal to garner public views and comments, which have been invited over one month starting from Friday, May 5, 2017, so that the draft guidelines can be finalised by the end of June 2017.

According to the proposed rules, airlines can impose a travel ban on an unruly passenger in the time range of three months to two years or beyond depending upon the level of misbehaviour.

"We have put instances of unruly behaviour into three categories," Choubey told reporters.

"Level 1 represents unruly behaviour such as verbal harassment, physical gestures... Level 2 includes physically unruly behaviour such as pushing, kicking, inappropriately touching," he said.

Level 3 will be "life threatening" behaviour of a passenger such as damage to aircraft operating system, physical violence like choking or murderous attempt or assault to flight compartment, he said.

Choubey elaborated that for level 1, unruly passengers would be suspended for three months, for level 2 suspension would for six months and for level 3 it would be for two years or beyond.

The proposed mechanism mandates setting up of a three-member committee that would look into the complaint filed by the airline and a decision on the ban will have to be taken within 10 days of the complaint.

Choubey explained that the proposal also provided an appeal provision for passengers. However, individuals put under the 'no-fly list' by the security agencies would not be given any right to appeal.

Besides, he informed that other airlines as well as international air passenger carriers were free to take the cognizance of the 'no-fly list' and extend ban to the concerned individual or group of individuals. 

Currently, rules only allow airlines to refuse boarding or off-loading of a passenger whose behaviour is deemed as unruly or disruptive to the safety of flight operations.

The draft guidelines followed Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad's misbehaviour with an Air India employee in March. Gaikwad was barred from flying by all domestic airlines before the ban was revoked.

After the incident, the flag carrier had placed a ban on flying the Shiv Sena MP.

Other private air passenger carriers' also imposed a similar ban on the Shiv Sena MP which was subsequently lifted on advice of the Civil Aviation Ministry after Gaikwad expressed "regrets" in the Lok Sabha over the March 23 incident.

Last month, sources in Air India revealed that the airline was working on a set of guidelines to deal with unruly passengers, which included hefty fines of up to Rs 15 lakh.

AI sources disclosed that the guidelines and proposed penalties were awaiting approval from Air India's Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani's office.

AI's proposed guidelines envisaged arming Air India's airport managers with more powers to deal directly with unruly passengers, while hefty fines of up to Rs 15 lakh have also been proposed to be levied on passengers who delay flight operations.

The guidelines detailed a fresh penalty structure through which an unruly passenger can be fined Rs 5 lakh for delaying a flight by an hour, Rs 10 lakh for delay beyond an hour and Rs 15 lakh for delay beyond two hours.

Commenting on the draft rules, Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG told IANS: "The a welcome development. The industry has been demanding it for several years now. With growing congestion at the airports and packed flights, we expect more incidents of unruly behaviour."

"A no fly list is therefore urgently required."

Global airline association International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that it is reviewing the draft policy to provide feedback to ensure the proposals are aligned with the industry's position.

"Unruly passenger incidents affect airlines around the world on a daily basis. The Indian government has already signed the Montreal Protocol 2014 and we now urge India to ratify it as soon as possible to enhance the deterrent against unruly and disruptive passenger incidents," said Albert Tjoeng, Assistant Director, Corporate Communications, Asia Pacific at IATA.