Unruly passengers could face jail time with new 2020 international protocol

2019-11-29 14:45
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Unruly behaviour from passengers on flights have been a headache for airlines for decades, but there's always been a lot of debate around who is in charge of punishment when incidents happen in international skies. 

But from 1 January 2020, passengers throwing tantrums on flights might face jail time as the Montreal Convention 2014 (MP14) amendment on 'Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft' will introduce a new protocol that make it easier for the authorities of the country where the plane lands to take action against offending passengers.

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This follows the 26 November ratification of MP14 by Nigeria, the 22nd state to do so. South Africa has not ratified it yet, while other African signatories include Angola, Benin, Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda. 

Other country signatories also include France, China, Finland, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, Turkey and the UAE, while the US and Canada have not ratified it.

Before, punishment was left to the country where the plane was registered, but this has been a logistical nightmare when foreign police have to deal with the passenger upon landing. Some of the incidents the new protocol covers include assault, harassment, smoking and failing to follow crew instructions.

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"Everybody on board is entitled to enjoy a journey free from abusive or other unacceptable behaviour. But the deterrent to unruly behaviour is weak," says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's CEO. 

"About 60% of offences go unpunished because of jurisdictional issues. MP14 strengthens the deterrent to unruly behaviour by enabling prosecution in the state where the aircraft lands. The treaty is in force. But the job is not done. We encourage more states to ratify MP14 so that unruly passengers can be prosecuted according to uniform global guidelines," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO.

This also means that a passenger can be arrested and detained in a country that was not the original destination if the plane had to be diverted because of the incident.

IATA adds that countries should align their enforcement policies with the ICAO Guidance on Legal Aspects of Unruly and Disruptive Passengers, which also includes policies for fines. Another measure taken by airlines to prevent flying with rule-breaking passengers include enhanced crew training and making sure passengers know what the consequences are of their shady behaviour. 

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