Free Press Journal

New deterrents for unruly air passengers


It is heartening that the civil aviation ministry has issued India’s first “no-fly list” (NFL) which provides for deterrent punishment for misbehaviour by a person on a flight regardless of the status of the person.This comes in the wake of disruptive behaviour by two MPs in recent months— Shiv Sena’s Ravindra Gaikwad assaulted an Air India staffer inside an aircraft and in another incident a few days later Telugu Desam’s Diwakar Reddy threatened IndiGo ground staff at Vizag airport—which led to public outrage and the grounding of these MPs by all airlines for some time.

The no-fly list has three levels for disruptive behaviour with different grounding periods. The first is for “unruly physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly inebriation” which can lead to a ban of up to three months. The second level is for “physically abusive behaviour (pushing, kicking, hitting, inappropriate touching)” with a flying ban of up to six months. The last, and most serious, level is for “life threatening behaviour including assaults, damage to aircraft systems” that can lead to a ban from two years to a lifetime.

The ban will be doubled in case of repeat offences. The government will soon come out with rules for providing a unique ID card number with PNR to book tickets to ensure a NFL person is not able to fly by using some other name. Apart from Indian carriers, even foreign carriers can make use of the new provisions if the unruly behaviour happens on a flight in and out of India and with an Indian citizen accused of being disruptive.

The Director General of Civil Aviation will maintain the list and put it on its website with the name of unruly flyers barred from flying for different periods by different airlines. However, these provisions will apply for onboard unruly behaviour — even when the plane is on ground — and disruptive actions at airports will only be covered under existing criminal procedures by the police. The system for implementing India’s first NFL is that the pilot-in-command or captain of the plane on which unruly behaviour took place will file a complaint with the airline. The carrier concerned will set up an internal committee with a retired district and sessions judge as head and with a representative from another airline and passengers/consumer association each as members.

This panel will examine the complaint. In case the committee fails to take a decision in 30 days, the passenger will be free to fly, says the NFL rule. While this is a welcome policy, it suffers from one lacuna—that there is no provision for punishing airline staff that may misbehave whether on ground or in the air. This needs to be incorporated in the interest of fair play and justice.