In wake of the recent airline ban imposed by IndiGo, Air India, SpiceJet, and GoAir on stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra, for his altercation with TV journalist Arnab Goswami on board a mid-air IndiGo flight, let’s discuss the airline rules of India. By Tanvi Jain

When a number of airlines banned stand-up performer Kunal Kamra from flying with them after his in-flight word-fight with journalist Arnab Goswami, the world got divided into two on whether the ban was justified. So, we thought of letting you an insight on what the airline rules of India actually say, and on what grounds can an airline ban a passenger.

On September 8, 2017, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had laid down some ground rules, a violation of which can put a passenger on a No-Fly List. The rules were notified under the Civil Aviation Requirements, Section 3, Air Transport Series M Part VI focus on the handling of unruly passengers.

The rules have been divided into three grades which include unruly behaviour, both physical gestures as well as verbal harassmentphysical abuse like kicking, hitting, grabbing, inappropriate touching or sexual harassmentand thirdly, life threatening behaviour such as damaging the aircraft operating system or any attempt of a murderous assault. Level one calls for a three-month ban, level two for six months and level three for two years.

If an incident occurs onboard, then the first line of defence is the cabin crew and the flight crew, who initially try to diffuse the situation via communication, and then via a written notice, if required. If both don’t work out, then restraining orders might be imposed, and in worse situation the pilot in command, in consultation with the air traffic control room, may decide to divert the flight and off-load the passenger, with the airline filing an FIR as well.

A passenger once put on an airline’s No-Fly List can be banned from boarding the flight even if he/she has a confirmed ticket. Further offences can lead to doubling of the offence period. However, the passenger also has the right to appeal to the Appellate Committee constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and further to the High Court as well.

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Under the contract of carriage made by the airlines with the passenger, the former can reject or eject the latter if they feel that his/her conduct, status, age, mental or physical condition can jeopardise flight safety or order.

However, the strictness of these rules is a question as there have been instances in the past where no action has been taken despite the violation. For example, in December 2019, a person refused to vacate an Emergency Exit row seat after arriving on a wheelchair, and held up a flight; then on January 2, 2020, some passengers threatened to break down the cockpit door of an Air India 747 after a technical issue. The authorities didn’t take any action in both the cases despite a video proof of the same.

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