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Misbehaving on flight could attract lifetime ban on flying

May 06, 2017 05:32 AM

NEW DELHI: Unruly behaviour on a flight — or even with airline staff on ground — from June 30 could mean a ban on flying for anywhere from three months to a lifetime. The aviation ministry Friday presented the draft rules on this issue, which puts unruly behaviour into three broad categories and prescribes different grounding periods for each level.

And to ensure that this provision is not misused against innocent passengers who may have been genuinely aggrieved by deficiency of service from airline side, the government provided for appealing against the grounding order. However, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad's act of beating up an Air India staffer on March 23 — which led to this action — will not come under the purview of the new proposed rules.

The first level of disruptive behaviour includes "physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly inebriation". The next level has "physically abusive behaviour" like pushing, kicking and includes "inappropriate touching or sexual harassment". The highest level is for "life-threatening behaviour, damage to aircraft operating system, physical violence such as choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, attempted or actual breach of cockpit."

"A passenger charged under the first level can be grounded for three months; for six months under the second level and for third level, the grounding can be upwards of two years with no maximum limit (meaning up to a lifetime). For repeat offenders in the same level, the period of grounding is proposed to be doubled," aviation secretary R N Choubey said.

All airlines will need to have a panel headed by a retired districts and sessions judge with a senior official of another airline and a member of consumer or passenger association/forum as members. Airline crews will file complaints of unruly behaviour with this panel which will have to decide on whether the passenger is actually guilty of disruptive behaviour and of which level, within 10 days. During these 10 days, the accused flyer will be barred from travelling on that particular airline. The no fly list will be under the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

"Once this standing committee of airlines decides the case, the flyer will not travel on any flights, whether domestic or international, of that particular carrier depending on the period of grounding. However it will not be mandatory for other Indian carriers to follow this list. Both other Indian and foreign carriers can also ground that person for the same period," said Choubey. 

The aviation ministry will set up an appeals panel — which will be headed by a retired high court judge with a senior airline official and a person from consumer/passenger association as member. A passenger found to be disruptive by an airline panel and grounded can appeal against the decision in this panel. However, he or she shall remain grounded pending the appeal which will also have to be decided within a fixed time frame.

These proposals are in a draft Civil aviation requirement (CAR) on which public comments can be sent for next 30 days. After that, the ministry will examine them and it hopes to come out with the final rule before June 30. "We are simultaneously working on taking some identity card details like Aadhaar or passport number at the time of booking airline tickets, including domestic ones, to ensure that a person on the national no fly list is not able to do so," said union minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha. He added India is the first country in the world to have a no fly list based on aviation safety as other countries have them on the basis of security.

When reminded of the pardon given to Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad by the aviation ministry when it asked Air India and other airlines to start flying him again, aviation minister Ashok G Raju said, "Not every Indian is Professor (Ravindra) Gaikwad."

The Shiv Sena MP had beaten an AI staffer on March 23 with slippers after which AI and then all other airlines had banned him from flying till the ministry ordered them to start flying him again a fortnight later. This was the first instance of a person being barred from flying in India, something which may become common now as the incidence of unruly onboard behaviour is on the rise here.


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