Earlier this year, Shiv Sena member of Parliament Ravindra Gaikwad assaulted a staffer of national airline Air India Ltd. for being seated in economy class. He demanded a business-class seat even though the flight didn’t have one.
Now, the likes of him will find themselves on the ‘no-fly list’ of airlines and could face a ban on flying that ranges from three months to more than two years.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has crafted a no-fly list and recommended bans of different durations for three levels of unruly behaviour by passengers.
While aviation industry experts welcomed the government decision, passenger associations questioned whether adequate redressal is available for those who may unfairly be deemed unruly.
The no-fly list is a knee-jerk reaction, D Sudhakara Reddy from the Airline Passenger Association of India told BloombergQuint. His solution? Airlines should educate passengers for six months before implementing the rules.
As per the civil aviation ministry guidelines, complaints of unruly behaviour would need to be filed by the pilot-in-command. The complaint will then be probed by an internal committee set up by the airline chaired by a retired District and Sessions Judge, with representatives from various scheduled airline and passenger associations as members. The internal committee must decide on the merits of the charge within 30 days, specifying the duration of the ban.
“People having expertise in human behaviour should also be kept in the committee” said former Director General of the DGCA Kanu Gohain in an interview to BloombergQuint. Both the airline as well as the passenger must heard so that a “non-biased decision can be taken,” he added.
Jitendra Bhargava, former executive director at Air India concurred. According to him objectivity in such situations is essential. “There are occasions when airline staff can also provoke...A level 3 misdemeanor could be made under grave provocation, In this case leniency has to come in.”
Passengers who don’t agree with the decision of the airline’s internal committee can appeal within 60 days from the date of the order before an Appellate Committee constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
“Let us say a flight is delayed beyond a reasonable time, say for three to six hours, do you expect them to sit quietly? They are bound to lose their cool. How will you treat those passengers?” Sudhakar Reddy argued.