Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra has been making headlines ever since his encounter with TV journalist Arnab Goswami on Tuesday where the latter was heckled by Kamra on a Mumbai-Lucknow IndiGo flight. After Air India and IndiGo, SpiceJet on Wednesday became the third airline to suspend Kamra from flying with it till further notice. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri took note of the incident and asked all airlines across the country to take action and impose similar restrictions on the comedian.
Stating Kamra’s behaviour as ‘offensive’ and ‘designed to provoke & create disturbance inside an aircraft’, Puri said that the incident was completely unacceptable and endangers the safety of other travellers on the flight. According to a PTI report, Air Asia said that it was waiting for an official notice from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on the same and only then would it take action against Kamra. However, it is important for us to understand how DGCA deals with such incidents of unruly passengers on a flight.
According to a circular shared by DGCA with FinancialExpress.com, unruly behaviour of any passenger on-board an aircraft has been declared as an offence and a punishable act. This Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) issued under the provisions of Rule 22, Rule 23 and Rule 29 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 says that any passenger who fails to respect the rules of conduct at an airport or aboard an aircraft or does not follow the instructions of the airport staff and crew members whilst disturbing the discipline at airport or flight will be considered as an unruly passenger.
The following are a few requirements have to be made by airlines and airport staff to ensure proper handling of unruly passengers:
1. Effort should be made to protect passengers and other personnel against any offence made by unruly passengers.
2. Airlines should establish a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), including the duties of ground staff, flight crew, airline airport manager and airline central operational control to deal with unruly passengers while at the airport or on-board the aircraft.
3. Unruly passengers must be carefully monitored, and if they deem to pose a threat to the safety and security of the flight or the fellow passengers then he/she should be refused to embark on the flight or should be off-loaded if embarked already.
4. Airlines have been asked to establish a mechanism to detect and report an unruly passenger’s behaviour at check-in, in the lounges, at boarding gates or any other place in the airport to prevent such passengers from boarding the flight. In case any incident is reported while the aircraft is on the ground then such an incident must be reported immediately in writing and an FIR should be lodged with security agency at the aerodrome.
5. The airline staff must observe any early signs of a potential unruly passenger and must act then and there to avoid the matter from escalating further. However, at no stage should the airline staff or crew member show any discourteous behaviour during redressal of genuine passenger rights.
6. While the flight is mid-air, the crew members should try and defuse a critical situation until it becomes clear that there is no way to resolve the matter through verbal communication and written notice to the passenger.
7. Passengers should be made aware through a display of ‘Conditions of Carriage’ at the airport that any act, which could be considered as an offence or may invite penal action as per law, is an offence if committed on-board an aircraft.
8. The passenger should also be made aware of the fact that if his/her behaviour falls into the unruly behaviour category then he/she will likely be arrested on arrival at the destination, or at any other airport where the pilot may choose to land.
9. Pilots are asked to quickly assess if the cabin crew is able to control the matter or not and accordingly, the pilot may relay this information to the airline's central control on the ground.
10. If the situation calls for it, airline's central control shall, after consulting with the pilot, identify the alternate aerodrome for landing the aircraft as quickly as possible.
11. Once the aircraft has landed, the airline representative shall lodge an FIR with the concerned security agency at the airport or, to whom the unruly passenger shall be handed over.
The DGCA, in its circular dated September 8, 2017, has divided unruly behaviour of a passenger in three levels:
Level 1- Physical gestures, verbal harassment, unruly inebriation, etc.
Level 2- Physically abusive behaviour like pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment, etc
Level 3- Life-threatening behaviours like damage to aircraft, or other forms of physical violence such as choking, eye-gouging, murderous assault, attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment, etc
If a passenger has been placed in the No-Fly List by a particular airline then other airlines also have the option to ban him from taking their flights to and fro destinations within India for a duration as mentioned below:
Level 1- Up to three months
Level 2- Up to six months
Level 3- For a minimum period of 2 years or more without limit
Level 4- Barred till the time the person is perceived to be a national security risk by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)