India moots no-fly list of disruptive passengers

Move follows case of lawmaker hitting steward with sandal

NEW DELHI • India has announced plans to create a national no-fly list of unruly passengers, weeks after a politician attacked a flight steward.

The Civil Aviation Ministry proposed banning passengers based on three categories of unruly behaviour, ranging from lewd comments and sexual harassment to damaging aircraft and murderous assault.

Depending on the severity of disruption, a passenger could find himself on the no-fly list for anything from three months to an unlimited period.

The move came after Hindu nationalist lawmaker Ravindra Gaikwad made headlines by repeatedly striking a steward on an Air India flight. The national carrier barred Mr Gaikwad from its flights after he admitted to whacking the 60-year-old steward roughly two dozen times with his sandal during an altercation over seating on a flight from Pune to New Delhi.

After the incident, Air India and members of the Federation of Indian Airlines - which includes IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation; Jet Airways; SpiceJet; and Go Air - proposed creating the country's first such no-fly list.

The national carrier barred Mr Gaikwad from its flights after he admitted to whacking the 60-year-old steward roughly two dozen times with his sandal during an altercation over seating on a flight from Pune to New Delhi.

Mr Gaikwad was forced to take trains to attend sessions at the national Parliament, until the ban was overturned last month.

"To have a national no-fly list where we've identified individuals, based on unruly or disruptive behaviour, who are jeopardising airline safety, will be quite unique and India is blazing a new trail in this regard," junior Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha said at a press conference.

Banned passengers, except those identified as threats by security agencies, will be able to appeal against their no-fly status to a quasi-judicial committee for review. The list, which will be maintained by the civil aviation regulator, will be made optional for other airlines to use and "prohibit that person from flying for that period or any other appropriate period less than the period for which he has been banned".

The draft of the no-fly list will be on the ministry's website for one month for expert and general feedback before it is made official.

"The whole process is expected to take about two months. By June 30, it should be possible for us to come out with the final decision," said civil aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'India moots no-fly list of disruptive passengers'. Print Edition | Subscribe