Finally, it’s pretty air tight

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Finally, it’s pretty air tight

The Government’s no-fly list is both a good and not-so-good step in the right direction

This was one domestic flying list waiting a long time to be put to paper. Unruly flying behaviour, or air rage as we indulgently call it, is an often ignored and mostly recurrent offence which was till now virtually under the law of tots with various airlines deciding independently on whether they would ban or continue to tolerate a passenger’s misbehaviour. Last week, however, the Government finally came out with a concrete document categorising the offence levels and the extent of punishment, all triggered by two MPs and their power-drunk misdemeanours. Many would argue that misbehaviour is really a twin-edged sword, set off sometimes in reaction to the misbehaviour and high-handedness of airlines staff (summarily denying seat after confirmation, delaying flights inordinately and cancelling without premise or enough reason are some common examples), too but a concrete list of bans is still welcome, especially in a country where power and clout often result in VIP passengers going on the rampage. Put under the charge of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and to be decided by a committee with airline staff, airline associations and even a retired judge with the “accused” having the right to appeal within 60 days, the mechanism will go a long way in making sure that passengers keep their equilibrium and not treat airline service providers as their personal servants. Second, it will bring an informal code of conduct in the flying zone at a time when passenger traffic has increased and, consequently the possibilities of misbehaviour too, through growing numbers. Also, a protection policy is always a better deterrent as misbehaviour is a subjective issue. But as in everything that we do, there are hidden secrets in this one too. Armed with this new set of guidelines, airlines may be tempted to use it as a threat even though it should be a last-resort deterrent. We know, in the modern world, tempers are short and egos big on both sides, so one will have to wait and watch how the usage pans out.

The no-fly list mentions bans ranging from three months to two years or more, depending on what the nature of the passenger’s offence is. Though the list is a welcome step in making flying a positive experience, at first glance, it looks somewhat loaded against the passenger. For one, he/she will not be allowed to board that complainant’s airline for three months which it will take to decide the matter. And, no compensation if proved innocent. That’s stiff, considering there is no parallel list of misbehaviour counts by airline staff — an equally common occurrence. That the list will be put in public domain will make the passenger look like a proclaimed offender, something that might deter him further from misbehaving. The deterrent for misuse of this list will come from the fact that no airline would want to lose passengers to another service provider. That’s for balance!

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