Airlines / Aviation

Kunal Kamra flight ban: What gets you on a 'No-Fly' List

​Ban on comedian Kunal KamraAgencies
​Ban on comedian Kunal Kamra
With four Indian airlines banning stand-up comic Kunal Kamra from flying with them for allegedly heckling journalist Arnab Goswami onboard an IndiGo plane, aviation regulator DGCA said the action by the carriers is in complete consonance with its regulations.

While SpiceJet, Air India and GoAir have banned Kamra 'till further notice', IndiGo has suspended Kamra from flying with it for six months.

One of the key questions to be asked at this point is whether the six-month flight ban imposed on Kamra by airline IndiGo, on whose flight the incident occurred, is valid or not.
​What is the rule?Getty Images
​What is the rule?
In 2017, DGCA laid down rules for putting passengers on a No-Fly List. The rules, notified on 8 September, 2017, under the Civil Aviation Requirements, Section 3, Air Transport Series M Part VI focus on the handling of unruly passengers.

The clamour for a no-fly list became louder after several incidents of violence on board aircraft. In March, MP Ravindra Gaikwad was in the news for assaulting an Air India employee. Months later, another MP Diwakar Reddy created a ruckus at the airport after being refused boarding at Visakhapatnam airport.
​What could put you on a no-fly list?Getty Images
​What could put you on a no-fly list?
Said norms define an unruly passenger as: "A passenger who fails to respect the rules of conduct at an airport or on board an aircraft or to follow the instructions of the airport staff or crew members and thereby disturbs the good order and discipline at an airport or on board the aircraft."

The rules classify three different grades for the offences:

a) Level 1: Unruly behaviour (physical gestures, verbal harassment, unruly inebriation etc.)

b) Level 2: Physically abusive behaviour (pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment etc.)

c) Level 3: Life-threatening behaviour (damage to aircraft operating systems, physical violence such as choking, eye-gouging, murderous assault attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment etc.)
​When there is an incident on board…Getty Images
​When there is an incident on board…
The first line of defence is the cabin crew and the flight crew. They are required to attempt to defuse a situation via verbal communication, and then a written notice if required. If this does not have the desired effect, then restraining devices may be applied.

If all else fails, the pilot-in-command may determine, in consultation with the airline control room to divert the flight and offload the passenger, with the airline filing an FIR against the passenger.
​Process for putting on a No-Fly ListGetty Images
​Process for putting on a No-Fly List
To be able to assess if a passenger is due to be put on the No-Fly List or not, the incident has to be first enlisted on an internal committee of the airline on the initiative of the pilot-in-command filing a complaint. This Internal Committee needs to have the following set of people:

Retired District & Session Judge as Chairman.

A representative from a different scheduled Airline as Member.

A representative from a passengers association or consumer association or retired officer of Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum as Member.

It is this committee that will decide within 30 days the gravity of the charges against the passengers and the ban to be placed on them. Level 1 offences attract up to three months on the no-fly list, Level 2 up to six months and Level 3 for at least two years or more. However, passengers can also be banned while the committee reviews the matter, but for no more than 30 days.
​What happens if you are put on the No-Fly List?Getty Images
​What happens if you are put on the No-Fly List?
Once the passenger is on the No-Fly List of the airline, other airlines also have the option to ban him from their flights, even if such passengers hold confirmed tickets. Subsequent offences cause doubling of the ban period. The recourse for the passenger is to appeal the ban with an Appellate committee constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and further appeal in the high court.

No-fly lists are not new. The USA put out one basis their security assessment after 9/11. But who is on that list is unknown. But a public no-fly list, along with the rules for such a list came out for the first time in India only.

However, airlines make a contract with you as a passenger, known as the contracts of carriage, which govern their treatment of a passenger. Airlines, at their discretion, can reject or eject passengers if they feel that the person’s conduct, status, age, mental or physical condition jeopardises flight safety or order. Misbehaving with the crew or not following instructions are also grounds for being denied boarding.
​But when it comes down to enforcement…Getty Images
​But when it comes down to enforcement…
The application of these rules leaves room for ambiguity. For instance, no action was taken against a person who refused to vacate an Emergency Exit row seat after arriving on a wheelchair as recently as December 2019 and held up a flight. Neither has any action been reportedly taken against passengers who on 2 January this year, threatened to break down the cockpit door of an Air India 747 after the flight had a technical issue.

Bottom line is, the far-reaching hidden language on the terms of carriage you don’t read could be the reason you could be on the No-Fly List of an airline in case of your overreach, but these rules are still left open to the interpretation of the airline and the crew on the aircraft.
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