No-fly lists coming to India shortly & the power is with the airlines

A few weeks ago, a certain MP on a power trip, abused his position to hit an old Air India staffer with his slipper because he did not get a Business Class seat on an all economy plane. Subsequently, the airline banned him, but had to reverse their decision due to pressure from the political class. After all, there was no firm provision in the law on banning a paid flyer for unruly behaviour.

Now, to fix this issue for good, the DGCA and the government have decided to make a no-fly list a reality. If one manages to get on this notorious list, you are not welcome on a plane that operates inside India. To me, it seems this gives a vast power to the airline to deduce who is unruly, and does not just try to be acting after an incident takes place, but also before hand prevent it.

The draft of the guidelines is out, and here are some interesting pieces.

Who is an Unruly Passenger?

A passenger who fails to respect the rules of conduct at
an airport or on board an aircraft or to follow the instructions of the airport staff or
crew members and thereby disturbs the good order and discipline at an airport or
on board the aircraft.

Very very broad, since rules of conduct are undefined in the contract of carriage that each ticket carries. It is a subjective thing. You pick your nose and it could be off the rules of conduct for a flight in someone’s book. We are encouraging a United like scenario here? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

How do you figure who is unruly?

  • 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.
  • Airline shall establish mechanism to detect and report unruly passenger behaviour
    at check-in, in the lounges, and at the boarding gate in order to prevent such
    passengers from boarding.
    In case of occurrence of an act of unruly behaviour
    while the aircraft is on the ground, such cases shall be reported immediately in
    writing and First Information Report (FIR) lodged with security agency at the
    aerodrome for assistance.
  • Unruly behaviour could be the result of an event of unsatisfactory service/ condition
    or effect of a series of such events that build up. Airline staff should observe early
    signs of potential unruly behaviour. Airlines shall focus and act on these early
    signs, rather than dealing exclusively with escalated events. At no stage, the airline
    staff/crew member shall show discourteous behavior during redressal of genuine
    passenger rights.
  • Crew members must attempt to defuse a critical situation until it becomes clear
    that there is no way to resolve through verbal communication and written notice to
    passenger. Applying restraining devices should be used when all conciliatory
    approaches have been exhausted.

My key beef is with the fact that this is now a grey area which could be used to trouble passengers. What does it mean when one says “Passengers who are likely to be unruly”? Is there a sixth sense given? I mean, hey, even our own MP was well-behaved till he was asked to get off the plane. Luckily, the guidelines identify some key situations where a passengers could go into unruly territory:

  • Consuming alcoholic beverages or drugs resulting in significant intoxication
    and unruly behavior.
  • Smoking in an aircraft
  • Failure to obey the instructions of the pilot-in-command
  • Acting in a disruptive manner by:
    • use of any threatening, abusive or insulting words towards a member of
      the crew or other passengers;
    • physically behaving in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly
      manner towards a member of the crew or other passengers;
    • intentionally interfering with the performance of a crew member.
  • Endangering the safety of an aircraft and persons therein

How bad is it?

All the incidents will get classified under the following 3 levels:

  1. Disruptive behavior (physical gestures, verbal harassment, unruly inebriation, etc.)
  2. Physically abusive behavior (pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment,
    etc.)
  3. Life-threatening behavior (damage to aircraft operating system, physical violence such as choking, eye gouging,
    murderous assault, attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment, etc.)

Getting No-Fly?

The DGCA is responsible for the no-fly list of the country eventually. Each such incident as described above needs to be reported to an internal committee of the airline concerned and has representatives of the public as well. If the committee decides the passenger needs to be put on this list, his/her details will be handed over to the DGCA. Depending on the level of the first offence, you get the following sentence:

  • Level 1 incidents: upto three months
  • Level 2 incidents: upto six months
  • Level 3 incidends: for a minimum period of 2 years or
    more without limit

If one continues to be a repeat offender, the time on the no-fly list gets doubled.

All in all, a good thinking. Its time to take away from all the idiots who think it is a privilege to fly and those who are there to serve them in the air are their servants, the right to fly! The only concern I have, is about the misuse of the provisions. I’m not sure yet how this will be redressed, but we will see how the final guidelines address the issue.

Do you think this would be a deterrent to another passenger going forth not thinking twice about their action and just doing it?

Comments

  1. Any thoughts on the start of Air Asia’s new international operations from Mumbai. I checked a few Fares, and found they are equally steep as any other full fare airlines. Thanks.

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