Crackdown on unruly passengers on international flights starts Jan. 1
Passengers who make trouble on international flights beware. An amendment to a global treaty will soon make it easier for countries to prosecute passengers on international flights who cause disruptions, delays or threaten the safety of the flight by tussling with other passengers or flight attendants.
Incidents involving unruly passengers had become less frequent but the offenses had become more serious, according to a study by an international airline trade group two years ago. But about 60% of the onboard crimes have gone unpunished, the study found.
The problem stems from a 1963 agreement among 186 countries, known as the Tokyo Convention, that gave jurisdiction over prosecuting an unruly passenger to the nation where the plane is registered. That means that a flyer who gets drunk and belligerent on an American Airlines flight to France can be prosecuted only in the U.S., where American Airlines is registered, not in France, where the plane lands.
Nigeria recently joined with 21 other countries to ratify an amendment to the Tokyo Convention, giving the amendment the necessary support for the change to go into effect Jan. 1. The amendment allows countries where the plane lands to prosecute a troublemaker on an international flight.
“Everybody on board is entitled to enjoy a journey free from abusive or other unacceptable behavior,” Alexandre de Juniac, director general and chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for the world’s airlines, said in a statement. “But the deterrent to unruly behavior is weak.”
In 2017, there were 8,731 incidents of unruly passengers on flights operated by airlines that are members of IATA, compared with 9,837 in the previous year.
Changes to a global treaty make it easier for countries to prosecute problematic passengers on international flights.