New Delhi: Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad beat up an Air India staffer with his slippers earlier this year. This lead to all domestic airlines promptly barring him from flying, in a month when he had to frequently travel to Delhi to attend Parliament. He was allowed back aboard only after a weak apology to the Minister of Civil Aviation. So will the aam aadmi, who may misbehave in a similar fashion while on board, be allowed back after a mere apology?
Gaikwad’s actions, which were subsequently emulated by another honourable MP on a private airline, have pushed the government to now come out with a national no-fly list. What could get you on this list of shame? Verbal and or physical abuse, inappropriate touching while on board besides, of course, damage to the aircraft or other acts of violence. Will a mere apology set the record straight? No, not at all.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Friday unveiled the no-fly list norms, applicable immediately. Anyone who indulges in inappropriate behaviour while on board an aircraft – even if the aircraft is still on ground – could find himself/ herself foul of the new law. Unruly behavior has been categorised in three levels:
Level 1: Unruly behavior (verbal)
Level 2: Physical behaviour
Level 3: Life-threatening behavior
The airline on whose aircraft the offence has been committed and whose pilot-in-command has reported the transgression can bar such a passenger for three months for Level 1 behaviour, up to 6 months for Level 2 but the ban on flying could extend to a minimum 2 years for a Level 3 offence. There is no upper limit for this level of misbehaviour, which means technically, a person indulging in such conduct could be barred for life. Not only from the airline where he may have committed the offence but also perhaps all other airlines – since airlines will henceforth be sharing data on unruly flyers. But this depends on each individual airline – it is possible that a passenger deemed unruly by one is allowed on board by another since airlines are not mandated to follow the no-fly list suggested by each other.
The process for identifying an unruly flyer for further action begins with the concerned airline setting up an internal committee comprising a retired district and sessions judge as chairman.
This panel will have representatives from other airlines as members, besides representatives from passengers associations etc. Any complaint of unruly behavior will be examined by this committee, for a decision within 30 days. Until such time, the passenger may remain barred from flying that particular airline. But if the committee fails to take a decision in 30 days, passenger will be free to fly again.
Remember, there is already a separate no-fly list of people who have been marked out by India’s security agencies as possible security threats and such persons are already barred for life from boarding a domestic flight. The new no-fly list provisions will apply to all domestic airlines as well as foreign airlines operating to and from India, but in the latter case will be guided by the Tokyo Convention.
The no-fly list will be provided by each airline and maintained by the safety regulator DGCA. As we said earlier, airlines will have option to ban persons contained in no-fly list from domestic flight. The no-fly list has two components ‒ unruly passengers banned by airlines and a separate list provided by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for persons perceived to be national security risk. Both will be applicable. The regulations also provide for doubling the ban period in case of subsequent offence.
There is also a provision for appeal by an aggrieved passenger (other than persons identified as security threat by MHA) within 60 days from the date of issue of order to an Appellate
Committee constituted by the ministry of civil aviation. This committee will comprise a retired judge of a High Court as Chairma and representatives from a passengers associations as members besides representatives from airlines.
This is the older Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) which defines an unruly flyer and what all can be done to deal with such passengers but it does not mention any penalties. It merely says “passengers who are likely to be unruly and disruptive 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.” This will be replaced with the new CAR Friday itself.