Banning unruly MPs from flying raises more questions

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on January 12, 2018

Will the Aviation Minister’s assurance of a full inquiry lead to a permanent solution?

The no-fly list and banning of unruly passengers from flying is once again in the news thanks to TDP Member of Parliament JC Diwakar Reddy allegedly misbehaving with IndiGo ground staff at Vizag airport.

The MP had reached late for his flight to Hyderabad, created a scene at the check-in counter but was allowed to board the flight. After he had completed his journey major domestic airlines including Jet Airways, Air India, SpiceJet, Vistara and of course IndiGo decided to ban the MP from flying on their flights.

However, this latest episode which comes three months after Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad had misbehaved with the crew on an Air India flight and was banned (which was later revoked), too raises more questions than answers.

To begin with IndiGo claims that the MP was denied boarding as he “reported 28 minutes prior to departure” after which he was rude to the ground staff. A statement by IndiGo adds that the MP expressed his “annoyance” and “soon raged” against the staff by behaving aggressively and abusively.

The question that arises is that if he was late for the flight and was rude to the ground staff why was he allowed to board the flight? If he had to be banned wouldn’t it have been more appropriate if he was not allowed to board the flight?

Another question that arises here is that aren’t airlines supposed to shut boarding 45 minutes before scheduled departure and stop issuing boarding cards?

Some interesting theories are making the rounds. According to some, he was allowed to board as Minister for Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapati Raju was also at the Vizag airport and may have had a role.

Incidentally the Minister’s staff vehemently deny that he had anything to with the TDP MP being allowed to take the flight.

What compounds the situation further is that sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation told BusinessLine that it is up to airlines to decide when to stop issuing boarding cards to passengers. This was confirmed by senior officials of other domestic airlines.

But then what about the boarding deadline that airlines have been following for years now? If this is the case then for how long have the airlines been using this discretion to allow some to board even if they check in late and stopping others?

More importantly, how does controlling unruly passengers and coming up with a no-fly list help matters?

Some sane voices are pointing out that while unruly behaviour by netas gets all the media attention, we are missing the woods for the trees. They add that what is being ignored is the verbal abuse by passengers which is common as also physical assault by “regular” passengers which goes unreported.

Passengers on their part are questioning the times when airline crew members have been rude to them or not given them the service that was promised.

Like he did in Gaikwad’s case, the Minister has assured a full inquiry into the Vizag airport incident and ensure that lawful outcome follows.

Whether that will provide a permanent solution to the problem of unruly passengers, however, remains to be seen.

Published on June 16, 2017

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