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Can Airlines Immediately Ban You From Flying After An Incident Of Misconduct? If Yes, For How Long?

Can Airlines Immediately Ban You From Flying After An Incident Of Misconduct? If Yes, For How Long?
On September 8, 2017 Ashok Gajapathi Raju, thethen Civil Aviation Minister, inducted a ‘No Fly list’ in Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) (Section 3, Series M, Part Vl on "Handling of Unruly Passengers") to safeguard the security of crew members and passengers in flight from unruly passengers.

Para 3.1 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) defines unruly passenger as ‘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.’

No Flying List was inducted in Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) following misbehaviour by Shiv Shena MP Ravindra Gaikwad who misbehaved with the Air India crew in March, 2017. Many more incidents of this type have happened in the past, following which airlines requested Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the then Civil Aviation Minister, to take some actions against such unchecked behaviour.

What is the ‘No Fly List’?

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) revised relevant sections of the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) (Section 3, Series M, Part Vl on "Handling of Unruly Passengers") in accordance with the provisions of the 1963 Tokyo Convention.  In Para 4.9 of CAR, it is mentioned that if a passenger is found smoking, taking drugs, not obeying instructions of the pilot-in-command or endangering the safety of an aircraft or persons therein, then that passenger could be arrested on arrival at destination, or at any other airport where the aircraft commander may choose to land.

Para 4.10 of (CAR) categorizes unruly behaviour on-board the aircraft into the following categories:

Level 1 – If any passenger verbally causes inconvenience, such as physical gestures, verbal harassment, unruly inebriation etc., to any crew member or passengers, then that passenger will be debarred for flying up to 3 months. [Para 4.10 (a) of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR)]

Level 2 – If any passenger by physical means causes inconvenience, such as pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment etc., to any crew member or passengers, then that passenger will be debarred for flying up to 6 months. [Para 4.10 (b) of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR)]

Level 3 - If any passenger's behaviour is life threatening, such as damage to aircraft operating systems, physical violence such as choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment etc., against any crew member or passenger, then for such life-threatening behaviour debarment would be for a minimum of 2 years. [Para 4.10 (c) of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR)]

Para 7 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) describes passengers who are a threat to national security. Such a passenger is barred till such time that the person is perceived to be national security risk by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The objective of the list is "to ensure safety and check unruly and disruptive behavior on aircraft."

Procedure for including any passenger in the No-fly list

A No-fly list essentially begins with a passenger causing verbal, physical or life-threatening unruliness. When any passenger engages in such behaviour then the pilot-in-commander files a complaint. Following which an internal committee is formed which has to decide whether the allegations raised are true or not, and also specify the duration of the ban, in accordance with para 8.1 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR). The committee has to arrive at a decision within 30 days, after filing of the complaint. As per para 6.3 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR), during the 30 days period, the passenger may be prohibited from boarding flights operated by the airline that filed the report. If the committee does not make a decision within 30 days, the case against the passenger is automatically dropped, as per para6.4 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR).

A passenger on the list is prohibited from flying on any aircraft operated by the airline that placed them on the list for the duration of their ban. Other airlines may choose to deny service to the passenger but are not compelled to do so. A banned passenger has the right to appeal their ban within 60 days of passage of a committee decision. Appeals are reviewed by a panel set up by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. If the panel upholds the decision, the passenger may seek further redress through the High Court.

Structure of Internal Committee

Para 6.1 of the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) describes that an Internal Committee is constituted by following:

  1. Retired District & Session Judge as Chairman.
  2. A representative from a different scheduled Airline as Member.
  3. Representative from a passengers' association or consumer association or retired officer of Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum as Member.
Para 5 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) lays stress on training of members of the crew of the plane to tackle any imminent unruly passenger.

This rule was first applied on October 30, 2017, on Birju Kishore Salla, a jeweller, on a Jet Airways Mumbai-Delhi flight who had left a note in the lavatory, warning that there were hijackers and explosives on board. The flight had to make an emergency landing. For the hoax, the businessman became the first person to be put on the no-fly list and also to be charged under the new Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016. A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court awarded him life imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5 crores

No-Fly List has been in news nowadays because popular airline carrier IndiGo on January 28, 2020 late night suspended stand up Comedian Kunal Kamra from flying for heckling Republic TV Channel journalist Arnab Goswami while he was onboard the flight, for six months. Later, for the same reason Air India, SpiceJet and Go Air also suspended him till the further notice. Airlines' decisions were censured by many, all over India.

Later, theDirectorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in a statement on Wednesday (January 29, 2020) clarified that the action taken by the airlines is in complete consonance with Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) Section-3, Series M Part VI on handling of unruly passengers.

"Now the matter is to be referred to the internal committee as prescribed in para 6.1 of the said CAR (Civil Aviation Requirements),”  the DGCA added.

Now the question that arises, since the matter is still pending before the Internal committee, is that, how can IndiGo impose a ban for six months on Kamra when as per Para 6.3 of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) maximum permissible ban of only 30 days is allowed until the Internal Committee submits its report, after which a final maximum ban of 3 months is allowed. Also, as per Para 6.3 of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) only IndiGo can impose a ban, not other airlines which have not been directly aggrieved by the mischievous behavior, when the matter is pending before the committee. Only after the committee arrives at the verdict are the other airlines allowed to follow suit in banning the guilty from flying. Even after the passage of a decision, a flying ban by other airlines is absolutely optional and not mandatory.

Author – Satwik Sharma


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