Unruly or ill-mannered passengers can now be banned from flying for a period ranging from three months to life by airline operators, with reckless behaviour on a flight that endangers others on board attracting the maximum life ban.
The revised Civil Aviation Rules released by the government on Friday cite three levels of disruptive behaviour. 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)," with a ban of up to six months. The final level is for "life-threatening behaviour, including assaults, damage to aircraft systems" that can lead to a ban from two years to life. The ban will be doubled for repeat offenders.
The rules would apply to anyone who misbehaves in an aircraft, be it VVIPs (very, very, important persons, a concept unique to India among democracies) or even the airline crew, said civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.
The list will have two components - unruly passengers banned by airlines, and people named by the home ministry as perceived national security risks. There will be checks to ensure that airlines do not have a free run and falsely label anyone - like a flyer making a genuine complaint - an unruly passenger and then ground him or her.
Asked if the rules will apply to MPs and other VIPs, Raju said "any flying human being (sic) on an aircraft" will face these provisions. "The no-fly ban will be in addition to any statutory legal action that can be taken against the offender under existing laws."
Minister of state Jayant Sinha said the government will 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.
There is however a loophole. A person put on the list by one airline can still travel with other carriers as the rules 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.
The decision of imposing a ban would be taken by an independent three-member committee of the flight operator concerned. The committee, headed by a retired district and sessions judge, could have members from passenger or consumer associations, or retired officials of the Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum. It would probe the offence and prescribe a ban within 30 days.
After the committee's ruling, both parties would be at liberty to file an appeal against the decision before an appellate committee formed by the ministry of civil aviation. It would be chaired by a retired high court judge and have a representative from a passengers association and a representative of the airline not below the rank of vice-president.
The issue of unruly passengers came into prominence after Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad physically abused an Air India employee in March. He actually boasted of having beaten the crew member with his slipper ''25 times'' for not being given a business class seat on an all-economy flight.
A little later in June, TDP MP Divakar Reddy allegedly created ruckus at the Visakhapatnam airport after he reported late to catch a flight to Hyderabad. The airline had denied him boarding as check-in had closed. However, Reddy managed to have his way and catch the same flight.