One month after the country was shocked by the visuals of a parliamentarian assaulting an airline crew member for not being able to provide a business class seat as it didn’t exist, the government took steps on Friday to empower airlines to ban unruly passengers.
The Centre today released draft rules for a ‘no-fly list’ — a first in kind in the world — for unruly passengers which allows an airline to bar a passenger from three months to maximum two years depending upon the crime. The government has outlined disruptions from flyers into three categories — level-1 will be disruptive behaviour like physical gestures etc., level-2 will be physically abusive behaviour like pushing, kicking and sexual harassment, and level-3 is for life-threatening behaviour and damage to aircraft operating systems.
Punishment for unruly behaviour will simultaneously depend on the category of the crime.
The corresponding time of grounding for offenders, would be three months for level-1, six months for level-2 and for level-3 of offence it will be two years. The new rules will be open for public comments for a month, and will pass through stakeholders consultation before being finalised.
What happens when a passenger feels that he has been wrongly barred from flying? The government has proposed to form two redressal committee — intitally at airlines level headed by a retired district judge and at national level by a retired High court judge. “All such grievances will be addressed within 10 days,” Choubey said.
Civil aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey said that the punishment would be applicable to domestic flyers; foreign airlines too can use these inputs if they want to. “Airlines can ban a passenger from flying immediately but that passenger won’t come on national no-fly list immediately,” he added.
Choubey said the government is also looking at creating a national no-fly list of unruly passengers and security threats.
According to a government release, airlines will maintain a database of unruly passengers which will form a national no-fly list of unruly or disruptive passengers. Individuals who have been identified as security threats by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs will also be included in the list. Airlines will have to inform these individuals about the inclusion of their names in the no-fly list and the reason for the inclusion.
Airlines can ban an unruly passenger from flying immediately, but he or she won’t come on the national no-fly list immediately.
However, For every subsequent offence, the concerned individual will be barred for twice the period of the previous ban.
A senior airline executive said that unruly passengers has become a safety and security issue and the punishment should be made harsher. “ To be effective they should be doubled for level-1 and level-2 and for life threatening activities there should be a lifetime ban,” the executive said.
In March, the Shiv Sena MP from Osmanabad had assaulted a 60-year-old AI staffer R Sukumar with his slippers “20-25 times” over a seating issue. Following the incident, flying restrictions had been imposed on Gaikwad which were subsequently lifted after protests by Shiv Sena members and an undertaking by Gaikwad stating that such incidents would not reoccur.