NEW DELHI: In wake of incidents of unruly behavior of passengers, the civil aviation ministry on Friday came out with proposed guidelines empowering domestic airlines to impose a ban on unruly passengers in the range of three months to two years. Though officials claim that the move was in the planning for a while, but recent incident of involving Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad who hit an Air India staffer "25 times" with a slipper for not being allowed to fly business class in an all-economy plane, had virtually triggered the ministry to take bold step.
Airlines can impose three levels of ban on such passengers – three months for disruptive behaviour such as physical gestures, six months for physically abusive behaviour such as pushing, kicking and sexual harassment and two years for life-threatening behaviour, including damage to aircraft systems, according to draft Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on “Handling of unruly or disruptive passengers.” According to draft rule, for every subsequent offence, an unruly passenger may be banned for twice the period of the previous ban. The draft rules will be open for public comments for a month after which a final regulation will be released incorporating the stakeholders' comments.
While the no-fly list is applicable for domestic carriers, there was nothing to stop international airlines from implementing it. The draft is an amendment to the existing Civil Aviation Requirement, a set of rules on unruly and disruptive passengers.
While proposing a "national no-fly list" which will comprise passengers identified as unruly after an inquiry by a committee constituted by that particular airline, the civil aviation ministry claims that a person identified as a threat by security agencies will also be included in this list.
Minister of State for Civil aviation Jayant Sinha, while briefing the media about the move, termed this step as a trailblazer.
"There is no other country in the world with a no-fly list based on safety. There are no-fly lists based on security where people are seen as grave threats and they are not allowed to fly. India is blazing a new trail in this regard," Sinha said
While the list is characterised as "national" and will compile data on disruptive passengers from all airlines, the ban recommended by the committee is not mandatory for all airlines to follow.
According to the statement issued by the ministry that the government has recommended three levels of unruly behaviours, each with a corresponding duration of flying ban. 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 comprises 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 consists of 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. If a passenger repeats the same degree of offence he/she will be banned for twice the period of the previous ban.
Explaining further, aviation secretary RN Chaubey said, "It is open to other airlines to use that list and simultaneously prohibit that person from flying for that period. It is not mandatory for other airlines."
The nature of misdemeanour and the punishment will be decided by a standing committee constituted by an airline. The committee will have to come out with its findings within 10 days during which the passenger will not be allowed to fly with the airlines.
It will be a three-member committee comprising a retired district/sessions judge, representative of a different airline and a member from passengers' association/consumer association/a retired consumer forum official.
A passenger can also challenge the ban and approach an appeals committee which will be set up by the Civil Aviation Ministry and headed by a high court judge, the statement further said.
However, passengers blacklisted from flying because of a security threat do not have the provision of approaching this committee. The government is also examining ways to track passengers recognised as unruly through an identity document. There is, however, a lack of consensus on whether an Aadhar card will be used for this purpose.
"We will be identifying passengers on the basis of identity verification, either through an Aadhar card or passport. This will ensure that we have a secure way of identifying a passenger and linking their secure authentication to their PNR," Sinha said. However, Choubey said that this is still being examined.