Air India needed to and has taken a firm line on unruly passenger behaviour onboard aircraft, which is also an international airline industry problem, and it is clearly not helpful when such incidents happen, according to Air India chief Campbell Wilson.
There have been multiple incidents of unruly passenger behaviour, including abusing and assaulting of cabin crew, onboard planes in recent months. In various cases, the aviation regulator DGCA has also taken action against airlines for certain lapses in reporting and not taking appropriate measures with respect to such incidents.
In an incident of unruly passenger behaviour, a male passenger onboard an Air India flight from Goa to Delhi on Monday physically assaulted a crew member.
Wilson, who is the CEO and Managing Director of Air India, said that unruly passengers are an international industry problem and that such incidents continue to happen.
"As an airline, we needed to and have taken a firm line on unruly behaviour onboard aircraft... there is a level of behaviour that we expect from people when they fly. Also, imparting that same message to the crew when supporting them," Wilson told PTI in an interview in the national capital on Monday.
While stressing that the airline has taken a much more active role in taking action when people are unruly, he also acknowledged that "unfortunately, the incidents (of unruly behaviour) continue to happen".
"When they happen, we take action and hopefully in the process, we remind people of what the standard is and we remind people of consequences when the standard is not met," he said.
According to him, every airline always has to deal with such issues.
Under DGCA rules, unruly passenger behaviour can be classified into three levels.
Unruly behaviour such as physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly inebriation are classified as Level 1 while physically abusive behaviour like pushing, kicking or sexual harassment are classified as Level 2.
Life-threatening behaviour such as damage to aircraft operating systems, physical violence like choking and murderous assault are considered as Level 3.
Depending on the level of unruly behaviour, an internal committee set up by the airline concerned can decide on the duration for which an unruly passenger can be banned from flying.
Earlier this year, Air India faced action from DGCA for lapses in reporting incidents of unruly passenger behaviour onboard aircraft.
On January 24, the watchdog imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on Air India for not reporting two incidents of unruly passenger behaviour onboard a Paris-Delhi flight on December 6, 2022.
On that flight, one drunk passenger was caught smoking in the lavatory and not adhering to the crew instructions, and another passenger allegedly relieved himself on a vacant seat and blanket of a fellow female passenger when she went to the lavatory. These incidents were not immediately reported to the regulator.
On January 20, DGCA slapped a penalty of Rs 30 lakh on Air India as well as suspended the licence of the pilot-in-command of the New York-Delhi flight in which a person allegedly urinated on a female co-passenger.
In the incident that happened on November 26, 2022, the watchdog also slapped a fine of Rs 3 lakh on Air India's Director of in-flight services for failing to discharge her duties.
On February 6, the civil aviation ministry told the Rajya Sabha that a total of 63 passengers were placed on the 'No Fly List' list in 2022.
A total of 143 passengers have been put on the list since 2017, as per the data provided by the ministry in February.
These passengers were placed on the list as recommended by airlines' internal committees set up as per the DGCA's Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) pertaining to the handling of unruly/disruptive passengers.
The CAR was notified in September 2017, as a measure to deal with the issue related to the handling of unruly/disruptive passengers.
It provides measures to pre-empt such incidents by way of the training flight crew, cabin crew and ground staff in soft skills to deal with unruly passengers besides how to detect, diffuse and prevent a critical situation.
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