UAE ratifies new rules to tackle unruly passengers; aviation industry welcomes move

Effective from May 1, 2023, authorities in the country will have the jurisdiction to manage unruly and disruptive passengers that land in the country


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sat 15 Apr 2023, 4:04 PM

Last updated: Sun 16 Apr 2023, 12:08 AM

Airline industry insiders have welcomed the move by UAE to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14), a move that will strengthen the global legal deterrent against unruly and disruptive passenger incidents onboard flights.

Effective from May 1, 2023, authorities in the UAE will have the jurisdiction to manage unruly and disruptive passengers that land in the country, irrespective of where the aircraft is registered. This resolves an existing gap in international aviation law that often results in those accused of unruly behaviour from being prosecuted for their misbehaviour.

“This is the most amazing news,” said M.C., a flight stewardess with a UAE-based airline. “It is unfair that we take so much trouble to keep an airline safe and passengers can behave in an unruly manner and get away with it. From what we understand, if we ever hand over a passenger to the police, they are let off with a warning. I think tighter rules will definitely make people behave better.”

Easier to implement stricter penalties

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said this move will make enforcement of stricter penalties on disruptive flyers easier. “Not only will this give the UAE authorities important new powers in dealing with unruly passengers that land in the country, but as a major aviation market and ICAO Council member, it will also encourage other States to ratify MP14,” said Kamil Al-Awadhi, IATA’s Regional Vice President Africa & Middle East.

The UAE is the 44th state to ratify MP14 and it is estimated that more than a third of international traffic is covered by states that are parties to it.

During her 18 years of flying, M.C. has seen and been at the receiving end of several incidents of aggressive passengers. “Once I was on a 3-day flight and there was a passenger who got drunk and was being very loud,” she said. “I tried to ask him to keep quiet and he didn’t like it. So, he struck me on the chest. I defended myself before he could hit me again and walked away from the situation.”

According to M.C., the passenger later apologised, things calmed down and she let the situation go without pressing charges. “As crew, we are constantly on our toes trying to spot unruly behaviour and de-escalate situations before [they] go out of hand,” she said. “But the point is, we shouldn’t have to go through these situations. When someone comes on to a plane, they should be behaving in a disciplined and reasonable manner without someone having to tell them to do so.”

Disruption of travel plans

A Dubai-based businessman Mansoor said that his travel plans were recently disrupted when he was travelling to Kerala. “There was a passenger who kept shouting in the plane,” he said. “The plane had to be rerouted to Mumbai and the passenger had to be offloaded before we could continue flying. It was a loss of time for everyone involved. There were many people who were delayed for meetings or events because of the incident. Strict action should be taken against such flyers.”

In recent times, there has been a steady increase of unruly behaviour on flights. Last week, an Air India flight from Delhi to London had to turn back after a female passenger began behaving aggressively. She is said to have attacked and physically assaulted crew members.

Last month, two inebriated passengers on an IndiGo flight from Dubai to Mumbai misbehaved with the crew after being told they couldn’t consume alcohol inside the flight. Both of them were arrested and charged.


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