India’s civil aviation regulator, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has issued an advisory to all airlines on unruly behaviour by passengers during flight operations.
The advisory comes after a string of incidents experienced by Indian airlines.
The DGCA advisory directs the heads of operations of all airlines to ensure that aircrew cabin crew and related post holders are made proficient on handling procedures for unruly passengers.
The regulator states that this awareness and training should be carried out by appropriate means including but not limited to training programmes.
The aim is to ensure effective monitoring, maintenance of good order and discipline on board the aircraft safety of aircraft operations is not jeopardized in any manner.
In their recent advisory to air operators dated 10 April 2023, the DGCA paid particular note to incidents brought to their attention in the recent past.
These incidents have included smoking on board aircraft, unruly behaviour caused by the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and passenger altercations which have sometimes involved inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment.
The regulator reminded all operators of the individuals and airlines responsibilities with respect to the appropriate handling of such incidents, as set out under various provisions including the aircraft rules 1937, DGCA regulations and circulars, as well as the airlines approved Operations Manuals.
Actions by airlines
The DGCA drew attention to Paragraph 4.9 of the CAR Section 3, which requires that passengers involved in the above-mentioned situations must be made aware that they may be breaking the law, and may be subject to arrest on arrival at the destination.
Accordingly, airlines were called to categorise such cases of unruly behaviour on board an aircraft into the following categories in order to take further action:
Level 1: Unruly behaviour involving physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly inebriation.
Level 2: Physically abusive behaviour such as pushing, kicking, hitting, inappropriate touching or sexual harassment.
Level 3: Life threatening behaviour such as damage to aircraft operating systems, and physical violence such as choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, and attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment.
On the basis of the above levels, the regulator directed airline internal committees to make a determination on the duration of time such unruly passengers shall be banned from air travel.
Operational crew responsibilities
The DGCA advisory also clarified the responsibilities of the pilot in command with respect to the safety of passengers and cargo and the maintenance of flight discipline and overall safety of crew members.
The responsibilities of cabin crew were also pointed out; noting the defusing of a critical situation and the consideration of applying passenger restraints where all conciliatory approaches have been exhausted.
In recent years, there have been several incidents of unruly passengers on Indian airlines, which have led to disruptions in flights and even forced emergency landings.
Some of the common problems faced by Indian airlines due to unruly passengers include verbal and physical abuse of crew members, non-compliance with safety protocols, consumption of alcohol or drugs on board, and even attempts to open emergency exits mid-flight.
As air travel demand and passenger movements increase, the Indian government and aviation authorities have taken strict measures to tackle the problem.
This has included measures such as imposing fines and blacklisting the unruly passengers, and implementing a strict “no-fly list” regimen to prevent them from boarding flights in the future.