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Airlines lift ban on Gaikwad; Minister assures of stricter rules

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New Delhi:  The central government on Saturday said that it is strengthening the rules to stop unruly air passengers from misbehaving, even as all the private airlines lifted a ban on flying Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad.

According to the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, his ministry is tightening the rules so that a national “No-Fly List” can be implemented.

Referring to the incident in which Shiv Sena MP Gaikwad assaulted an Air India senior manager on March 23, Sinha said in a series of tweets: “MoCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation) is strengthening rules so that a national no-fly list can be implemented, such incidents can be prevented, and safety improved.

“Air travellers should note that safety and security for passengers and crew is our paramount priority. Unruly/disruptive behaviour will result in severe consequences. This includes police action for a specific incident as well as being placed on a no-fly list.”

Currently, rules only allow airlines to refuse boarding or off-loading of a passenger whose behaviour is deemed as unruly or disruptive to the safety of flight operations.

On Friday, a letter from the ministry to Air India detailed that in order to deal with unruly passengers in the future, an amendment to CAR (Civil Aviation Requirement) is being drafted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in consultation with the ministry for establishment of a national “No Fly List”.

Sinha further said that Gaikwad apologised and gave an undertaking that such incidents will not recur. It was only after that assurance that Air India was advised to revoke the ban.

“Police investigations regarding Shri Gaikwad’s conduct during the March 23 incident are underway and the law will take its own course,” the minister tweeted.

Air India had revoked the ban on Friday after it was advised by the ministry to do so in a letter. The ban was lifted a day after Gaikwad had expressed “regrets” in the Lok Sabha over the March 23 incident.

The national passenger carrier imposed the ban on flying the Shiv Sena MP aboard its flights after Gaikwad assaulted an Air India senior manager.

Subsequently, two FIRs were filed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport police station in Delhi for assault and delaying the aircraft — as the MP refused to disembark from the plane. The Delhi Police Crime Branch is currently investigating the cases.

Since the ban, Gaikwad has been compelled to travel by train or by road depending on his engagements, keeping away from the media glare.

Meanwhile, all six private airlines on Saturday lifted their ban on flying Gaikwad.

The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) announced that it was lifting the ban imposed on Gaikwad on March 24, a day after he assaulted an Air India staffer at Delhi airport.

The members of FIA are SpiceJet, IndiGo, GoAir and Jet Airways.

FIA Associate Director Ujjwal Dey said the decision was taken following Gaikwad’s assurance “that our assets and colleagues shall be accorded the respect that they deserve for the hard work they put in every day”.

Vistara and budget carrier AirAsia India also lifted the ban.

“We support the decisions of our industry peers taken in the interest of the safety of air passengers and flight operations and in upholding the dignity of airline staff. We stood in solidarity with Air India and members of the FIA during this recent episode that challenged both these critical aspects,” a Vistara spokesperson said.

“We continue to stand by them today in their decision to revoke the ban. Unruly and disruptive passengers are a serious safety and security threat, and we are hopeful this incident results in specific regulations and actions to address this important issue.”

IANS

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