Airline staff will face action if they fail to act against passengers who are unruly or behave inappropriately, the country's aviation regulator said on Friday, in the wake of widespread outrage over a passenger urinating on another on a recent Air India flight.
Restraining devices may be used on unruly passengers "when all conciliatory approaches have been exhausted", the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, listing measures that flight crew need to take during such encounters.
These devices, which usually look like handcuffs or belts, are mostly kept in the plane cabin. Specifications and manufacturers are recommended by the regulator.
"In the recent past, DGCA has noticed a few incidents of unruly behaviour and inappropriate conduct by the passengers on board the aircraft during flight, wherein it is observed that post holders, pilots and cabin crew members have failed to take appropriate actions," it said.
"Non-action/ inappropriate action/ omission by the airlines towards such untoward incidents has tarnished the image of air travel in different segments of society... Any non-compliance towards applicable regulations shall be dealt with strictly and invite enforcement action," the DGCA added.
The aviation regulator said the pilot in command is responsible for assessing a situation and relay information to the airline's central control on the ground for further action.
"Upon landing of the aircraft, airline representative shall lodge FIR with the concerned security agency at aerodrome, to whom, the unruly passenger shall be handed over," it said.
The reminder comes amid criticism of Air India over its handling of the incident in November when a business class passenger on a flight from New York to Delhi unzipped and urinated on a co-passenger, an elderly woman.
Shockingly, when the flight landed, the man, identified as Shankar Mishra, was allowed to leave without any repercussions. Air India didn't complain to the police until this week, only after the woman's letter to the group chairman of Air India, N Chandrasekaran, surfaced.
Describing her ordeal, the woman said not only was she not offered a fresh seat, but the crew also brought the drunk man to her seat and forced her to face him as he apologised and begged to be spared arrest.
The airline, which banned the man from flying for 30 days following an outcry, said as there was "no further flare-up or confrontation", and "respecting the perceived wishes of the female passenger, the crew elected not to summon law enforcement upon landing".
Strongly disapproving of Air India's actions, the DGCA said the airline's conduct was "unprofessional" and led to "systemic failure". It has asked for an explanation from officials of the Tata Group-owned airline, the pilot of the flight and the crew.
Ten days after the November 26 incident, another episode of a drunk male passenger allegedly urinating on a female passenger's blanket took place on a Paris-Delhi flight, but once again no action was taken after the man gave a written apology, news agency PTI reported on Thursday.