India's First `No-Fly' Rules

Reckless behaviour on a flight that threatens the safety of others on board could now ground you for life. This is part of rules for India's first ever “no-fly list“, issued by the aviation ministry which is now in force.

Disruptive behaviour has been divided into three levels with different grounding periods. The first is for “unruly physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly inebriation“ which can lead to a ban of up to three months. The second level is for “physically abusive behaviour (pushing, kicking, hitting and inappropriate touching)“ that will invite a flying ban of up to six months. The last, and most serious, level is for “life-threatening behaviour, including assaults, damage to aircraft systems“ that can lead to a ban from two years to a lifetime. The ban will be doubled in case of repeat offences.

The list will have two components--unruly passengers banned by airlines and names given by the home ministry of people perceived to be a national security risk. The list will, however, also have checks and balances to ensure that airlines do not have a free run and falsely label anyone--like a flyer making a genuine complaint about poor onboard service or flight delay after boarding --an unruly passenger and ground him or her.

Minister of state Jayant Sinha said the government would soon come out with rules for providing a unique ID card number with PNR to book tickets to ensure that a person on the no-fly list cannot fly by fudging details.

A person put on the list by one airline can still travel with other carriers as the rules that India has adopted are airline-wise and this is not a national no-fly list. While it is not mandatory for other airlines (Indian or foreign) to ground a person on one carrier's no-fly list, they will have the option of doing so.

Apart from Indian carriers, even foreign carriers can make use of the new provisions if the unruly behaviour happens on a flight in and out of India and with an Indian citizen accused of being disruptive. The DGCA will maintain the list of unruly flyers barred from flying.

The system for implementing India's first no-fly list is that the pilot-in-command or captain of the plane on which the “unruly behaviour“ took place will file a complaint with the airline. The carrier concerned will set up an internal committee with a retired district and sessions judge as head and with a representative from another airline and passengers consumer association each as members. This panel will examine the complaint. “This internal committee will decide the matter in 30 days along with the duration of ban on the unruly passenger. Till such time, the airline concerned may impose a ban on the passenger from flying for a maximum of 30 days. In case there is no decision in 30 days, the passenger is free to fly ,“ aviation secretary R N Choubey said.

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