EDITORIAL

Deterring ugly behaviour on planes

Wayward air passengers are getting off lightly when there are jurisdictional gaps. Prosecution is hindered when the offence is committed in air space and on carriers not linked to the country the planes land in. While the Tokyo Convention allows the pilot to act against unruly passengers, a dramatic rise in such cases - over 28,000 incidents between 2007 and 2013 - has prompted efforts to plug loopholes in aviation security.

About 100 governments participated in the Montreal Protocol talks last year. In line with this global initiative, Singapore is to amend its laws to authorise action against in-flight wrongdoers. This is needed to "enhance Singapore's status as a safe and secure air hub", as the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore noted. From the perspective of aerial commuters and flight crew, these laws cannot come soon enough. Terrorist threats are bad enough without having to cope with ugly and unsafe passenger behaviour. Egregious examples include a family urging a toddler to defecate on his seat on a flight from Beijing to Detroit, and passengers opening the emergency exit door - preposterously, to show anger over a flight delay, to get some fresh air, and to get off the plane faster.

Such growing assertiveness and bloody-mindedness among some passengers of various nationalities need to be met with stern measures. Public safety aside, there is also the huge inconvenience felt by many when flights are delayed, diverted or aborted. When modern air travel depends on clockwork efficiency and precisely timed connections, any disruptions caused by the inconsiderate tend to have wide-ranging effects.

Law-abiding travellers might approve of a tougher line adopted by cabin crew to restrain those who threaten the safety of others or tamper with important aircraft equipment. Some carriers even carry plastic handcuffs for extreme cases.

The Montreal Protocol limits "arbitrary or capricious" actions on the part of the aircraft commander. And such is the nature of competition, airlines are more likely to be restrained even when dealing with irascible and irresponsible passengers. While the Protocol provides the means to recover the costs of flight disruptions, an airline might well weigh the capacity of ordinary passengers to pay hefty charges and the negative impact of such moves on its public image.

However, laws framed here and elsewhere should brook no nonsense from passengers who insist on undermining the safety, comfort and well-being of the hordes taking to the sky - a record 3.3 billion last year and the numbers are rising. Within confined spaces at a height of 35,000 feet, there is no room whatsoever for rage of any kind.