Beijing/New Delhi : Tipsy air travellers, beware! Laws are being tightened to empower crew members to restrain anyone from creating ruckus inside an aircraft or even at the airport before boarding a flight.

A new rule has been drafted by aviation regulator DGCA formally empowering the pilot-in-command of all flights to take suitable action to prevent such commotion which could endanger safety of the flight or passengers or crew members. It empowers airline staff to ‘monitor’ drunk passengers in lounges or at the airport check-points.

The rule makes it mandatory for airlines, including foreign carriers operating in Indian territory, as well as non-scheduled and charter operators, to evolve Standard Operating Procedures to deal with such situations.

The draft comes a month after a drunk Indian passenger had to be tied up on board an Air India flight from Melbourne to Delhi when he created a mid-air disturbance. He was arrested by police after the plane landed in New Delhi on charges of causing hurt and wrongful restraint.

Such incidents have been on the rise globally, with the airlines’ body International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimating that the number of unruly behaviour reported by airlines had reached some 8,000 cases in 2013.

The proposed rule or Civil Aviation Requirement says that disruptive behaviour of a passenger could not only aggravate discomfort to passengers or disturb crew members from doing their job, but also endanger safety and security of a flight.

Although unruly passengers represent a ‘minute’ proportion of passengers, “We must not forget that one aggressive passenger can jeopardise the entire safety on board an aircraft,” official sources said.

Existing laws in India provide imprisonment of disruptive passengers for up to one year or pay up a fine of up to Rs five lakh or both.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked all stakeholders to submit their comments on the draft law within a month, they said.

The draft rule says passengers “who are likely to be unruly must be carefully monitored, and if necessary, refused embarkation or off-loaded, if deemed to pose a threat to the safety and security of the flight, fellow passengers or staff while on board aircraft.”

“Airlines shall establish mechanism to detect and report unruly passenger behaviour at check-in, in the lounges, and at the boarding gate” in order to identify such passengers, the draft said. The proposed rules say a passenger could endanger safety of an aircraft or those inside it either through drunkeness, smoking, failing to obey commands of aircraft commander or crew, using threatening, abusive or insulting words towards crew members or intentionally interfering with their working.

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Free Press Journal