Right to safe air travel : The Tribune India

Right to safe air travel : The Tribune India

Pushpa Girimaji

Two horrifying cases of drunk passengers urinating on the cabin seats on two different international flights call for strict preventive measures such as a strict alcohol-servicing policy and also changes to the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) regarding “unruly passengers”. to ensure strict action against such perpetrators. It is also important to bring transparency, accountability and consistency to the way airlines deal with such incidents.

While in the first incident, a drunk passenger identified as Shankar Mishra allegedly died on 26 In the second incident, a female passenger was lucky while going to the toilet on an Air India flight from Paris to New Delhi on December 6 when the drunk fellow passengers urinating on their seats. Thanks to media pressure, Mishra was arrested on January 7th by Air India under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and on January 19th imposed a four-month flight ban on him.

However, when passengers on long-haul flights need to sleep soundly without worrying that a drunk passenger will pee on them or behave in a way that endangers everyone else’s life (they can open the emergency door in midair in their drunken state) . ), then such behavior should require a much more severe punishment from the airline (than provided for in the CAR), such as B. a long-term ban of not just one, but all airlines and a heavy fine.

Under the Handling of Unruly Passengers CAR issued in 2017 under Rules 22, 23 and 29 of the Aircraft Regulations, an offender in such a case can only be banned from flying with the airline for a maximum of three months or six months, whichever is the case the independent internal committee set up by the airline to investigate the matter classifies the violation. Again, other airlines are only free to issue a similar ban. And there is no fine for the offender. Therefore, what the CAR dictates is hardly a dissuasive punishment for someone who gets drunk and behaves in a deplorable way and may do so again.

Although the CAR says that the internal committee set up to review complaints of improper conduct should render its judgment within 30 days, it does not specify a time limit for the committee’s appointment. Nor does it require that every airline set up a permanent, independent internal committee to deal with such cases. Even the definition of the “reluctant passenger” and the categories of offenses need to be expanded to provide clarity in the interpretation and classification of offenses. In the absence of this, there is significant subjectivity and bias in the way airlines deal with the offences.

The CAR needs a major overhaul to dissuasively penalize drunk, unruly passengers and also bring transparency and accountability to the way airlines comply with the rules. Air India’s failure to report the November 26 incident to the DGCA and the police is an example of a blatant rule violation.

I now come to the source of drunken behavior – the serving of alcohol on board international flights and the serving/sale of liquor at most airports/lounges. In fact, all airlines must reduce alcohol serving to a maximum of two small cones – regardless of travel class – and keep a careful eye on passengers for signs of intoxication, also making sure they don’t bring their own drink to consume it. Likewise, there should be restrictions on the serving/sale of spirits in executive/departure lounges and careful screening of passengers upon boarding to determine if anyone is intoxicated.

Interestingly, a written petition filed in the Delhi High Court in 2017 (India Awake for Transparency vs. Union of India) called for a ban on the serving and sale of spirits at all domestic departure terminals. However, the court dismissed the plea on the grounds that the remedy sought fell solely within the political sphere of the defendants (Union of India).

Unruly behavior by intoxicated passengers not only endangers the safety of others and the aircraft, but also leads to delays and unscheduled landings, causing significant inconvenience to other passengers. In September 2022, an Air Canada flight from Saskatoon to Toronto made an emergency landing in Winnipeg to get rid of two disruptive passengers.

In May 2022, a British low-cost airline slapped two brothers with a £50,000 fine and banned for life after their regrettable behavior resulted in a flight being diverted. In March, the same airline banned a female passenger for life from flying with the airline and fined her £5,000.

To address this issue, the International Civil Aviation Organization formally adopted a protocol amending the Tokyo Convention on Disruptive Behavior in 2014. The Protocol extends jurisdiction for such offenses to the country of destination of the flight in addition to the country of registration (of the aircraft). It also gives airlines the right to reclaim costs incurred through unruly behavior. This came into force in 2020.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which collects reports of unruly behavior, in 2021 there were 885 such incidents. In the first half of 2022 it went up – one for every 833 flights.

As consumers we are all entitled to safe air travel and we must demand strict measures to keep drunk passengers away.

— The author is a consumer rights and safety expert

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