Air passengers can now be banned for a lifetime for unruly behaviour on flights by both domestic and foreign airlines, the Union government announced on Friday.
The unruly passenger will be put on a no-fly list, which will be made public and maintained by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The ban will range between three months and a lifetime depending upon the gravity of the offence.
For physical gestures, verbal harassment and being unruly while inebriated, there will be a ban on passengers for up to three months; for physically abusive behaviour including pushing, kicking, hitting or sexual harassment, up to six months; and for life-threatening behaviour the ban may range from two years to a lifetime.
In case a passenger is a repeat offender, the duration of the flying ban will be twice that of his previous ban, according to the DGCA rules.
Airlines, on receiving complaint of unruly behaviour by the pilot-in-command, will refer the matter to an internal committee chaired by a retired district and sessions judge. The committee will include a representative each from different airline and passenger associations or consumer forums.
The internal committee will decide the quantum of ban based on evidence produced by both airline and passenger, including eye-witnesses, within a period of 30 days, failing which the passenger will be free to fly.
The passenger will not be allowed to fly till the decision of the internal committee. However, there will be no compensation in case the allegations by the airlines are proven wrong.
However, other airlines will not be bound by the no-fly list of an airline, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said. Aggrieved passengers can appeal within 60 days to an Appellate Committee, constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and chaired by a High Court judge.
“The no-fly list provisions will be applicable with immediate effect to all citizens. The no-fly ban will be in addition to any statutory legal action that can be taken against the offender under existing laws,” Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said at a press conference.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said India would become the first to maintain a national no-fly list for passenger safety. The list will be applicable only for on-board behaviour of the passengers. Unruly behaviour on airport premises will be dealt with by security agencies under applicable penal provisions, he said.
To avoid mistaken identities, the government will soon make unique identification mandatory at the time of booking flights.
Domestic airlines witnessed 53 cases of unruly behaviour by passengers between July 2016 and March 2017.
The trigger for a no-fly list was an incident related to Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad in March this year in which he had allegedly beaten up an Air India staffer which led to airlines imposing a temporary ban on his travel.