The no-fly list will not become a tool of harassment for airlines, the government said on Tuesday as it prepares to put in place a robust system to deal with unruly passengers in the wake of the assault incident involving a Shiv Sena MP.
Asserting that the revised norms to tackle any unruly behaviour will strike a balance between the rights of passengers and carriers, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey said the ministry is likely to put them out for public consultations in a "couple of weeks".
A new Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) is being worked out to have a no-fly list and stricter norms to deal with disruptive passenger behaviour against the backdrop of Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad assaulting an Air India staffer with slipper in March.
"(We need) to make sure the no-fly list does not become a tool of harassment by the airline for passengers. At the same time, it (CAR) should give adequate power to the airline in case a passenger is turning out to be actually troublesome or unruly," Choubey told PTI in an interview.
The draft of the new CAR is likely to be made public this month, he said, adding that the CAR issued in 2014 has a few shortcomings.
Choubey said the existing CAR neither specifies the duration for which an airline can bar a passenger nor does it lay out a procedure for travellers to appeal against a flying ban.
"We are bringing out amendments to ensure that on the one hand, the passengers' interests are also protected because often times, passengers are harassed by airlines. At the same time, if there are unruly passengers, then airlines should also be protected. So, we are bringing out that balance," he noted.
The current CAR, issued on November 18, 2014, on 'handling of unruly/ disruptive passengers' lays out a procedure for dealing with such travellers, mandates training of crew to face and requires reporting of such incidents.
According to the civil aviation secretary, the ministry is "debating" whether there should be a "national no-fly list" common across airlines or there needs to be a separate list for each of the domestic carriers.
Another option is to have an airline-specific list till a certain level beyond which it becomes national.
On whether unruly behaviour of passengers is likely to be graded, he said the ministry would like to do so.
"We would like it to be graded. We would suggest a certain grading and we would invite comments on whether such a grading is appropriate and adequate," he noted.
Emphasising that the ministry will "put out a pretty robust system", he also said CAR will be enough to ensure legal sanctity in terms of enforcing the no-fly list.
"CAR is enough. CAR flows from the Aircraft Act and Aircraft Rules," Choubey said, adding that if there are any legal challenges that will be dealt with.
Following the assault incident, Gaikwad was barred by Air India and other domestic carriers from flying for a month and later, the ban was revoked.
Choubey said the action taken in the Gaikwad case has been a "legal" one and a "strong message" has been sent out against unruly behaviour.
About reported dissatisfaction among certain employees at Air India over revoking the flying ban on Gaikwad, Choubey said the decision was taken after the MP gave a letter of regret, "which was seen as adequate in the first instance".
"Therefore, Air India was advised (to lift the flying ban). It was seen as adequate at that point of time keeping in mind that a very strong message has been sent out," he noted.
On whether there was any political pressure to lift the flying ban, the civil aviation secretary replied in the negative.
"There were different views and I am speaking responsibly. There were views, political leaders had views, other air passengers had views, the airline employees had views. I would not say, for example, there was pressure on us from airlines saying that don't remove," he said.
Air India was also mulling having a no-fly list after Gaikwad assaulted one of its employees as he was miffed at not being able to fly business class on an all-economy plane. PTI JC RAM