New global treaty aims to deter unruly airline passenger behaviour

Countries will have more power to crack down on unruly behaviour onboard aircraft, once the Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14) comes into effect on January 1, 2020, said the IATA.

MP14, properly named the Protocol to Amend the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, is a global treaty that strengthens the powers of states to prosecute unruly passengers.

New global treaty seeks to curb unruly passenger behaviour on board aircraft

It closes a legal gap under the Tokyo Convention 1963, whereby jurisdiction over offences committed on board international flights rests with the state where the aircraft is registered. This causes issues when unruly passengers are delivered to the authorities upon landing in foreign territories.

Unruly and disruptive passenger incidents on board flights include physical assault, harassment, smoking or failing to follow crew instructions. These incidents may compromise flight safety, cause significant delays and operational disruption, and adversely impact the travel experience and work environment for passengers and crew.

“Everybody on board is entitled to enjoy a journey free from abusive or other unacceptable behaviour. But the deterrent to unruly behaviour is weak. About 60 per cent of offences go unpunished because of jurisdictional issues,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

“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.”

To date, 22 nations have ratified MP14, with Nigeria being the latest country to do so on November 26, 2019.

States should also review the effectiveness of the enforcement mechanisms available to them in line with ICAO Guidance on Legal Aspects of Unruly and Disruptive Passengers (ICAO Document 10117) which gives information on how civil and administrative fines and penalties can be used to supplement criminal prosecutions, said IATA in a statement.

In addition to strengthening jurisdiction and enforcement, airlines are working on a range of measures to help prevent incidents and manage them more effectively when they do happen, according to IATA. These include enhanced crew training and raising awareness with passengers of the potential consequences of unruly behaviour on board.

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