IndiGo bans nine journalists for 15 days over 'unruly behaviour'

Sources said the action was recommended by an internal committee which has investigated the incident
IndiGo has barred nine TV journalists from flying with the airline for 15 days over their alleged unruly behaviour onboard a flight in which actor Kangana Ranaut was travelling to Mumbai from Chandigarh in September.

The ban is currently under effect and is likely to end on October 30.

Sources said the action was recommended by an internal committee which has investigated the incident.

India's no fly list rules unveiled in 2017 has a provision for banning an unruly passenger from minimum three months to a maximum of two years depending on the severeness of the incident.

"The action taken has been reported to aviation regulator DGCA. Now it is upto other airlines whether they want to take action against the nine people," a senior government official said.

This is the third case in India when airlines have put passengers on no fly list after rules were framed in 2017. The first one was when Vistara had taken action against a passenger when he misbehaved with a cabin crew. Last year, comedian Kunal Kamra was banned for three months by IndiGo for heckling journalist Arnab Goswami on board.

On September 9, IndiGo flight 6E 264 saw crew of several TV channels following Ranaut seeking comments after the BMC had demolished "illegal" constructions at her office in the financial capital. In the video, clicked by a passenger, the TV crew were without mask and crowding the aisle.

After video of the incident was put on social media by a passenger, aviation regulator DGCA, in a communication to IndiGo, said that the airline failed to act and asked it to take action against the unruly passengers.

DGCA had said there were multiple issues involved in the case. The prominent ones include photography on board a flight (violation of Aircraft rules 13), violation of Covid-19 protocols and certain actions falling within the purview of unruly behavior on board.

IndiGo retorted back saying their staff followed all requisite protocols, including announcements to restrict photography, and follow social distancing norms. “At one point, the cabin crew even parked a food cart in front of third row so that no one could come forward,” IndiGo wrote back.

However, the airline simulatenously said that an internal committee was investigating the incident following which requisite action will be taken.

According to DGCA rules, following reporting of unruly behaviour on board, airline has to form a 3 member committee comprising of a judge, an executive from a different airline and a representative of passenger or consumer forum.

During the period of pendency of the inquiry, the rules empower the concerned airline to impose a ban on the passenger. The committee is to decide the matter within 30 days, and also specify the ban duration.  However, IndiGo had imposed no such ban

However, the airline had, earlier this year, banned  Kunal Kamra for three months after he had an altercation with journalist Arnab Goswami. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had defended the ban then.

Other airlines had also followed suit after IndiGo's action.

Globally, the case of unruly passengers have raised concerns. Airline lobby group IATA in 2018 IATA endorsed a two-part strategy in 2014 to address the problem — "enhance international air law so that we make it clear that unruly passenger behavior will not be tolerated, and there will be consequences for those who endanger safety and good order” and “work to ensure that the industry is doing all it can to prevent unruly incidents."

IATA said that a major problem has been that after an airline turns over unruly passengers to local law enforcement, those local authorities often release the passengers without charging them, in part because the country where the aircraft is registered has jurisdiction over such offenses.

A provision to transfer jurisdiction to the country where the aircraft lands has been approved by an ICAO convention but has not yet been ratified by the required number of ICAO member nations.


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