Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 17 January 2024

Aviation woes

“Only disciplined ones are purely free in life and undisciplined are slaves to their moods and passions.”

- W. K. Hope

Relevance: GS III (Economy)

  • Prelims: Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA); Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS); Chicago Convention; 
  • Mains: Infrastructure; Airways and its regulating challenges;

Why in the News?

Recently, IndiGo has initiated the process of putting on the no-fly list a passenger who assaulted a pilot after the flight was delayed for several hours amid heavy fog in Delhi.


  • As the airlines declared the passenger “unruly”, further action will be guided by the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on “Handling of unruly passengers” issued by the aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
    • The CAR lays down the procedure that airlines must follow with regard to unruly passenger behavior of varying degrees at the time of the incident and subsequently.
    • Since a few months, the DGCA also has been prodding carriers to proactively report incidents of disruptive passenger behavior on board aircraft, which the regulator feels could compromise operational safety.

What is the procedure to be followed after the incident is over?

  • When an airline receives a complaint of unruly passenger from the pilot-in-command, it must refer the complaint to an internal committee, which must include 
    • A retired district and sessions judge as chairman, 
    • A representative of a different airline and, 
    • A representative of a passengers’ association, or a retired officer of a consumer disputes redressal forum.
  • The internal committee is required to decide the matter within 30 days, along with the categorization of the incident in one of three defined category levels.
  • The committee’s decision is binding on the airline.

What are the category levels of disruptive passenger behavior?

The levels define behavior ranging from verbal harassment to murderous assault.

  • Level 1: Unruly behavior, including physical gestures, verbal harassment, and unruly inebriation.
  • Level 2: Physically abusive behaviour, including pushing, kicking, hitting, and grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment.
  • Level 3: Life-threatening behavior, including damage to aircraft operating systems, physical violence such as choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, and attempted or actual breach of flight crew compartment.

How are airlines supposed to respond to incidents of unruly passenger behavior?

  • The airline should first inform the passengers concerned that in case their behavior is deemed unruly as per the guidelines, they could be arrested.
    • Airline representatives shall lodge FIR (First Information Report) with the concerned security agency at aerodrome, to whom, the unruly passenger shall be handed over.
  • In cases of unruly behavior in the air, the pilot is required to quickly assess if the cabin crew can control the unruly passenger, and accordingly inform the airline’s central control on the ground.
  • If the pilots and the airline’s central control believe that the unruly passenger cannot be brought under control by the cabin crew, they must land as soon as possible at the nearest available airport.

Penalties for unruly behavior:

  • The airline can ban the unruly passenger for up to 30 days immediately after the incident.
    • For Level 1 and 2 offenses, the ban on flying can extend to 3 to 6 months respectively. 
    • For a Level 3 offense, the minimum ban should be for 2 years, with no upper limit.
  • An individual who is banned from flying can appeal within 60 days to an Appellate Committee constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and headed by a retired judge of a High Court. 
  • An appeal against the appellate panel’s decision shall be made to a High Court.

The DGCA’s message to airlines: The DGCA had noticed that the post holders, pilots and cabin crew members have failed to take appropriate actions.

  • About Preventive steps: Airlines shall focus and act on these early signs, rather than dealing exclusively with escalated events. At no stage, the airline staff/ crew member shall show discourteous behavior during redressal of genuine passenger rights.
  • About Formalities: The regulator underlined that norms must be followed, and advised the heads of operations of all airlines to sensitize pilots, cabin crew, and other concerned officials on handling unruly passengers. 
  • About Training programs: Training programmes should be held to ensure “effective monitoring, maintenance of good order and discipline on board the aircraft so that safety of aircraft operations is not jeopardized in any manner”, the DGCA said.
  • About Monitoring: Airline personnel need to “carefully monitor” the behavior of passengers who are “likely to be unruly” and, if deemed as posing a threat to flight safety or safety of crew and other passengers, they should not be taken on board.
  • About Technological Intervention: All airlines shall establish a mechanism to detect and report unruly passenger behavior at check-in, in the lounges, at the boarding gate or any other place in the terminal building in order to prevent such passengers from boarding, the rules state.

Conclusion: The Indian aviation industry is currently navigating through several challenges, facing not only significant flight delays due to adverse weather conditions but also grappling with broader industry issues.



About Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA):

  • The DGCA is the Regulatory Body in the field of civil aviation in India, primarily dealing with safety issues. 
  • It is responsible for regulating air transport services within and from India, as well as enforcing civil air regulations, air safety, and airworthiness standards
  • The DGCA also coordinates all regulatory functions with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 
  • Headquarters: New Delhi, with regional offices in various parts of India


About Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS):

  • The BCAS is an important regulatory authority in India, initially established as a Cell in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in January 1978 and later reorganized into an independent department under the Ministry of Civil Aviation in April 1987. 
  • It has its headquarters in New Delhi and four regional offices at international airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. 
  • Functions:
    • Laying down standards and measures for the security of civil flights at international and domestic airports in India. 
    • Laying down aviation security standards, monitoring the implementation of security rules and regulations, ensuring the appropriate training of security personnel, and conducting test security measures and preparedness.
    • The BCAS has also developed standardized security screening procedures for all airports in the country and provides guidelines for travelers with disabilities or medical conditions.

About Chicago Convention:

  • The Chicago Convention, also known as the Convention on International Civil Aviation, was established in 1944 in Chicago, U.S and came into effect on 4 April 1947.
  • It established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for coordinating and regulating international air travel. 
  • The Convention sets rules for airspace, aircraft registration, and safety, outlining the rights of the signatory states in relation to air travel. 
  • It also established the sovereignty of airspace above each state's territory and defined the freedoms of the air, which govern the rights of states to operate air transport flights across, into, and within the airspace of other states. 
    • Initially there were five freedoms which later were expanded to nine by the addition of four unofficial freedoms
  • Additionally, the Convention exempts air fuels from tax.


Mains PYQ

Q. Examine the development of Airports in India through joint ventures under Public – Private Partnership (PPP) model. What are the challenges faced by the authorities in this regard? (UPSC 2017)

Q. International civil aviation laws provide all countries complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above their territory. What do you understand by ‘airspace’? What are the implications of these laws on the space above this airspace? Discuss the challenges which this poses and suggest ways to contain the threat. (UPSC 2014)

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