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Anger Up In The Air May Soon Cost You Rs 5 Lakh

No longer just a warning and a let-off, Director General of Civil Aviation comes up with strict measures to punish those who misbehave in flights, reports Mumbai Mirror.Planning to try one of your pick-up lines
PTI May 10, 2010 10:42 IST
No longer just a warning and a let-off, Director General of Civil Aviation comes up with strict measures to punish those who misbehave in flights, reports Mumbai Mirror.

Planning to try one of your pick-up lines on the pretty air hostess? Perish the thought. If the new set of air offence rules come into play, your wisecracks and your temper tantrums in flight could land you in jail, or make your bank account lighter by a few lakhs at least.

Alarmed by the increasing instances of unruly passengers misbehaving with the cabin crew, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for the first time has proposed a set of rules to deal with unruly passengers.

A DGCA source said, “According to the proposed rules, misbehaviour includes damage to property, even removal of smoke detectors, nagging a steward, trying to touch an air-hostess, getting abusive with the crew or co-passengers or assaulting them. A passenger who indulges in these will attract punishment.”

Nazim Zaidi, DGCA, confirmed having sent the proposed rules to the law ministry for consideration. “A big issue that we are looking to address through this amendment is that of jurisdiction.” This means, even if an offence is committed on foreign airspace in an India-bound flight, a case can be registered and tried in India.

So far, such passengers were to be tried only under the Indian Penal Code. But now, any act which prohibits the crew from discharging their duty will be considered an offence.

Depending on the nature of the misbehaviour, the passenger could be fined up to Rs five lakh or spend a year in jail. The more serious of offences, like getting into physical fights and risking the safety of the aircraft, are also likely to be considered non-bailable offences.

As of now, the Aircraft Rules of 1934 are in force, which do not include punitive measures for passengers who harass or threaten crew members. “Just about one out of 20 air rage incidents are registered as complaints by the airlines today. They are too scared of ruining customer relations and tarnishing their image,” said an airline official requesting anonymity.

“The cabin crew is mentally trained to handle such incidents. It is only when a situation ends up in a fist fight, which generally happens only when the passenger is drunk, that he or she is either deplaned or taken to the CISF. There they are generally warned and allowed to go,” explained another airline official.

In fact, DGCA has had to issue a fresh directive to all airlines to report air rage incident to the Chief of Flight Safety telephonically and submit a written complaint within 12 hours.

To arrive at this set of rules, the DGCA invited suggestions from most stake holders including airlines. Some airlines are said to have suggested a heavier penalty for passengers whose misbehaviour forces emergency landing. “The losses run into lakhs of rupees. It is only logical to pass on at least part of the financial burden to the miscreants. Only then will it serve as a deterrent,” said an airline official, adding that misbehaviour records of a passenger should be maintained on the lines of crime records. However, the DGCA is against blacklisting repeat offenders – something airlines were pressing for.

Praful Patel, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, said, “We are examining the proposal. But I can't give you a time-frame on when it will be implemented.”

An Air India spokesperson said, “We will comply with the directives of DGCA. Any step taken to eliminate air rage is welcome.” However, Sudhakar Reddy, President of Indian Passengers' Association, has condemned the move. “Who will decide whether the passenger has misbehaved or not? It is quite possible that a passenger asks for an additional service and the airhostess files a complaint calling that misbehaviour. Airlines are meant for comfort of passengers. We will voice our dissent with the DGCA.”