Cases of unruly behavior onboard have significantly increased in frequency in past years, according to IATA. The organization collected 49,084 reports from airlines concerning unruly passengers between 2007 and 2015. Intoxication from alcohol or drugs was identified in 23% of reported cases. While a universal blacklist is still a far-fetched idea, governments and airlines around the world are starting to play with it. 

India: Safety first!

In the beginning of September 2017, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation officially announced rules for creating a National No Fly list. Passengers who behave themselves unruly on a plane may be banned from flying from three months to an indefinite period.

According to the instructions in the list, The Ministry of Civil Aviation , ,there are three levels of unruly behavior: verbal assault, physical assault and physical violence. The latter is described as “choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, damage to aircraft systems, attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment”. It is defined as life-threatening behavior and can lead to banning up to two years or even for a lifetime. Milder expressions of unruliness would have you banned for a couple of months, according to DGCA.

The banning procedure is rather simple. As „The Times of India“ informs, the pilot-in-command can report an incident involving an unruly passenger and the matter will be investigated by an internal committee of the airline within 30 days. If the probe is not concluded within the time-frame, the passenger will be „free to fly“. However, the airline may impose a ban while it is probing the matter for a period not exceeding 30 days.

Union Minister of State for aviation Jayant Sinha emphasized: “India is pioneering in having a no fly list on the basis of safety as other countries have it on security grounds.”

Stories of Qiao, Deng and Gao

On February 1, 2016, five Chinese airlines – Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Spring Airlines – started putting restrictions on “uncivilized” passengers.

“Certain tourists” frequent uncivilized behaviors at domestic and foreign airports as well on aircraft not only harmed the images of themselves and the nation – even more, they jeopardized aviation safety,” the National Tourism Administration said.

By Jules Meulemans

The passengers with surnames Qiao, Deng, and Gao were the first three who were blacklisted for their behavior.

Qiao reportedly insisted on ignoring a flight attendant's orders and used a tablet while the plane was landing. They were banned from flights for 1 year and also had to pay a small.

Deng allegedly hurled a carton of milk at airport officials and the X-ray security scanner at check-in. Deng was detained for 10 days and is in the list for two years.

Gao attacked an airport official over a delay. So this passenger was fined $30 and his name stays on the blacklist for one year.

All it takes is a bag of macadamia nuts

Other countries have taken up similar measures to prevent and discourage disturbances. For instance, South Korea's „anti-nut rage“ law that took effect in January 2016.

The decision to introduce new rules was made after an incident in 2014, when a former aviation executive threw a fit over how her macadamias were served while flying first class, CNN reports.

According to this law, those who harass or interrupt any crew member during a flight will face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $41,300, up from the previous penalty of $4,130.  Drunken passengers who disturb or abuse others could be fined $8,260, double the previous amount. Also, captain and crew members who fail to report violators to police after landing could face up to $8,260 in fines.

Pilots not immune

Russian airlines started to talk about compiling blacklists of both passengers and pilots who have violated flight-safety rules back in 2012. The idea to create blacklists was first voiced by Aeroflot, ESN portal reports.

„All air companies need legal permission for publishing passenger blacklists, but the law doesn’t allow us to do it,” – the head of the Aeroflot Vitaly Savelyev said earlier.

But Aeroflot went further. It insisted on blacklisting of pilots also, RIA Novosti informs.

by Aeroflot

As ESN portal informs, in 2009, Aeroflot pilot Alexander Cheplevsky was removed from a plane after passengers accused him of being drunk, citing his blurred speech, red face and unsteadiness on his feet. Aeroflot later said the pilot was not drunk but had possibly suffered a stroke.

“A blacklist is better than a fine, – said liberal Democratic Party deputy Yaroslav Nilov to ESN. “…because the authorities would have to impose the fine at the end of the flight, while “nobody wants to get involved with the passenger but instead wants to get rid of him as soon as possible and get some rest.”

Rosaviatsiya reports that in 2017 the number of cases with “unruly” behavior onboard has increased to 16% per year, Russian media Vedomosti informs.

„On September 15, 2016, we registered 50 incidents like this. On September 12, 2017 we have 58 of them,“ – Rosaviatsiya says.

Sometimes they decide not to

It is extremely rare, especially in United States to ban a passenger from flying on a particular airline, says the CEO of Aero Consulting Experts captain Ross Aimer in a comment to AeroTime.

“Perhaps because there are so many choices of airlines to fly on here, or possibility of wrongful discrimination lawsuits that prevent US carriers to ban someone for life,” captain Ross Aimer explains.

According to the expert, the person would have to commit an extremely egregious act to be banned for life from ever being allowed on a certain airline.

„I do, however, remember such banishment imposed by my former employer on a Premier Executive and a longtime customer,” says Captain Ross Aimer. „A Fortune 500 CEO was traveling on board a United Airlines 747 from West Coast to the Far East, several years ago. The person was seated in the first class of the fully loaded flight. Apparently he started drinking heavily and became extremely intoxicated.”

The combination of high altitude cabin environment and amount of liquor consumed makes it easier to become more intoxicated than at sea level pressure, the expert explains.

When the flight attendants realized the man was intoxicated and verbally abusive to passengers and the staff, they decided to start pouring drinks.

“This made him more upset and abusive. At one point he jumps on the food cart nearby, pulling his pants down and defecated on the food cart, in front of shocked passenger and crew!” remembers captain Ross Aimer. “He was then subdued by the crew and put in plastic hand cuffs. Upon landing the local police meets the aircraft and he was sent to jail. The subsequent news and trial was highly publicized and obviously damaging to our CEO friend. I do recall he paid a hefty fine and even did some jail time. United barred him to ever set foot on their aircraft! He may have even lost his job, if I remember correctly.”


 

Lady gets unruly on United flight 


The travelers may be prosecuted for unruly behavior also flying with Airlines for America.

“Airlines for America has supported vigorous prosecution of passengers charged with disruptive behavior aboard aircraft, and in doing so, have for years collaborated on this issue with law enforcement authorities both in the United States and oversea,” wrote in email spokesperson of Airlines for America Kathy Grannis Allen.

It looks like blacklisting is not the only option of punishment for improper behavior. In many cases, when the passenger behaves unruly, the crew may call the police and have this passenger arrested, but they don’t ban from further flights. 

Alcohol – the root of unruly behavior?

The Washington Post columnist Christopher Elliott says to AeroTime that airlines continue to blacklist passengers for various reasons. In his opinion, sometimes blacklisting is a proper way of punishment for unruly behavior.

“There are passengers who are better off driving. Or staying at home,” the journalist says. “I can’t think of any other effective way to prevent passengers from unruly behavior – other than that the misbehaving passengers don’t return.”

But of course there is something, that carriers can do to prevent travelers from “uncivilized” behavior. 

“Eliminate alcohol and I think you would eliminate most of the misbehaving passengers,” Elliott emphasizes.

Most airlines in the world are not ready cancel selling of alcohol, according to experts. Budget carriers make lots of money from inflight sales, while others fear that the appeal of flying in this case would be reduced.

Is blacklisting effective?

It seems that practice of blacklisting doesn’t prevent airlines from new incidents with unruly passengers. It doesn’t reduce the number of these incidents as well. But many carriers continue to ban passengers from flights in hope to prevent such unpleasant incidents. 

“The increase in reported incidents tells us that more effective deterrents are needed. Airlines and airports are guided by core principles developed in 2014 to help prevent and manage such incidents,” IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said in an official statement.

In 2014, the ICAO member nations recognized the limitations of existing international legislation in deterring unruly passengers and agreed to Montreal Protocol 14 (MP14) of the Tokyo Convention. MP14 gives countries legal tools to deal with unruly passengers.

In some countries there has been a focus on the role of alcohol as a trigger for disruptive behavior. Airlines have guidelines and crew training on the responsible provision of alcohol. For instance, they created the code of practice pioneered in the UK, which includes a focus on prevention of intoxication and excessive drinking prior to boarding. Staff in airport bars and duty-free shops must be trained to serve alcohol responsibly and there is a need to avoid offers that encourage “binge drinking,” IATA informs.

Monarch Airlines example at London’s Gatwick Airport shows that instances of disruptive behavior can be cut 50% with this approach before.

“There is no easy answer to stem the rise in reported unruly behavior. We need a balanced solution in which all stakeholders can collaborate,” de Juniac thinks. “The industry’s core principles can help to manage the small percentage of passengers who abuse alcohol. And it must be balanced with efforts by governments taking advantage of all their deterrence mechanisms, including those provided through the Montreal Protocol 14.”