Recently, unpalatable news about chaos and violence among air passengers in India has become a frequent phenomenon. Be it the incident involving an inebriated passenger urinating on a fellow passenger during a flight or the fight that broke out between two passengers on another airline, such occurrences disrupt flights and heighten the safety concerns in the aviation sector.
In India, the Passenger Charter grants certain rights to air travellers. There are also certain protocols that air passengers have to follow. Violation of these protocols can lead to penalties and other consequences.
Which laws govern air passenger behaviour?
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation ( DGCA) is the key body which lays down guidelines for passenger behaviour under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs) and other notifications. Airlines are also mandated to form and enforce their own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to determine what activities they will permit and which they won’t. Airports also have the authority to regulate passenger behaviour under the provisions of the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994 (Act). Further, India also follows the rules under the Montreal Convention, 2014.
When can you be denied entry into the airport?
The DGCA Guidelines and Section 12(j) of the Act are the primary sources of airport protocols. According to the Guidelines, you must have a valid ID proof and air ticket. A CRPF officer will check them before letting you in. Failure to produce the required documents or non-cooperation with the airport authorities can result in refusal of entry into the airport. Different airports also issue their own dos and don’ts that apply to the passengers. In the post Covid world, failure to comply with Covid protocols can also debar passengers from entering airports. Statutory travel restrictions like a “look out notice” or an order specifically forbidding one from travelling can also prevent one from entering the airports.
Can the airlines refuse to let you board?
Airlines are allowed to deny boarding to passengers if they are found guilty of certain behaviours. According to the Section 3, Air Transport Series M Part VI, a passenger can be restricted from boarding an aircraft and put on a “no fly list”, if:
- A passenger displays unruly behaviour through offensive physical or verbal gestures or drunken behaviour.
- A passenger behaves in a physically violent manner like assaulting crew members or sexually harassing a fellow passenger etc.
- A passenger engages in any life-threatening behaviour like damaging airport properties, fatally injuring anyone on the premises etc.
- A passenger refuses to comply with the Covid-19 or any other emergency directive issued by the DGCA.
Once put on a ‘no fly list’, a passenger is usually banned from flying the particular airline for a designated period of time. Other airlines also have the option to ban the said passenger from travelling with them.
In case the boarding is refused by the airline because of some issue from their end, the passenger is entitled to compensation and other reliefs.
What are the consequences of unruly behaviour onboard?
The cabin crew of an airline constitute the first line of defence and they are authorised to take appropriate action if there is any untoward behaviour onboard. According to CARs, cabin crew must try to diffuse the situation, but in case of aggravated unruliness or violence, they can resort to stricter steps as per the discretion of the captain. This can include restraining the in-flight movement of the accused or changing their seat. Crew can also take any that are permitted by the specific SOP of the airline.
In case of violence onboard, the airline staff must file an FIR with the Complaints Committee of the destination airport and handover the accused to the said authorities. The trial will follow and the committee can decide the due course of action. During this time, the accused can be banned from any form of air travel.