Aviation industry experts say that the duration of ban under the government’s draft rules on no- fly list should not be left to the discretion of airlines, while an air passenger rights body has called the new regulation “vague” and “hurriedly prepared”. The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) today made public its amendment to a set of rules on unruly and disruptive passengers and proposed a national-no fly list of such travellers.
The government has recommended three levels of unruly behaviours, each with a corresponding duration of flying ban. “Different categories of unruly behaviour have not been properly defined. The language is very vague. If you say a physical gesture is a level one offence then the rules must clearly explain what constitutes an offensive gesture,” said Sudhakar Reddy, the founder and national president of the Air Passengers’ Association of India (APAI).
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Industry experts say that the duration of the ban should be specified by the government and not left to the airline concerned. As per the proposed rules, airlines can impose a ban of “two or more years without limit” for life threatening behaviour.
“It appears that the ban duration would be left to the discretion of airlines. Ideally the duration should be fixed by the MoCA or DGCA (the Directorate General of Civil Aviation) and then followed uniformly by all airlines,” Amber Dubey, Partner and India head of Aerospace and Defence at global consultancy KPMG.
Dubey added that the proposed law should ensure that unruly passengers are not able to obtain a stay order against the travel ban. He, however, also suggested that government should specify the compensation passengers should get if allegations against them are proved wrong. Dubey mooted installation of CCTV cameras in all flights for recording evidence.
APAI’s Reddy also said that passengers should be mandatorily educated about what constitutes disruptive behaviour. “Many people don’t know whether they are making a mistake, many are flying for the first time and are illiterate. These rules have been brought out hurriedly,” Reddy added.
He, however, welcomed the redressal mechanism provided which allows passengers to approach the government’s appeals committee to challenge the decision to ban them from flying. Tata-SIA joint venture airline Vistara welcomed the proposals and said that this was an “important step in ensuring safety and well-being of air travellers and is also in the interest of safe and seamless flight operations”.
Budget carrier Indigo said they will “examine this further to understand the larger implications”.
Global airlines’ grouping International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it was reviewing the draft policy and will be providing its feedback to the government.
IATA also urged India to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014 “as soon as possible to enhance the deterrent against unruly and disruptive passenger incidents” The Montreal Protocol revises Tokyo Convention 1969 and give greater clarity to the definition of unruly behaviour. There are also new provisions to deal with the recovery of significant costs arising from unruly behaviour.
The draft rules released today by the ministry is an amendment to the existing Civil Aviation Requirement, or a set of rules, on unruly and disruptive passengers.
These are being placed in the public domain for 30 days for comments and feedback from stakeholders following which the government will come out with final amendments by June 30.
The first level of misdemeanour includes disruptive behaviour such as physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly behaviour because of inebriation. This level of offence will carry a flying ban of three months.
The second level relates to physically abusive behaviour such as pushing, hitting, grabbing, inappropriate touching or sexual harassment. This degree of misconduct will carry a ban of six months. The third category pertains to life threatening behaviour such as damage to aircraft operating system, physical violence such as choking or murderous assault and attempted breach of flight crew compartment. This will carry a flying ban of two years or more without limit. PTI JC SMN 05052145