Airlines call for stronger laws on unruly fliers

HUGO MARTIN
Last updated 10:33 24/12/2013

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A drunken man gets tackled by a group of off-duty cops in November while trying to storm the cockpit on a flight from Warsaw to Toronto.

An inebriated passenger on a January flight from Iceland to New York tries to grope and choke fellow travellers until crew and passengers bind him with duct tape.

Such incidents are no longer flukes but rather a trend that has prompted airlines to call for new laws to deal with unruly passengers and other mayhem on international flights.

The number of incidents of unruly passengers has jumped from fewer than 500 in 2007 to more than 6,000 in 2011, according to the International Air Transport Association, the trade group for world airlines, which has been keeping track of the incidents.

In 1963, representatives from 185 countries met in Tokyo to adopt a set of laws that focused on onboard crimes related to hijacking.

But the laws are outdated and do not address the kind of bedlam that some passengers provoke, delaying flights and fraying nerves, said Perry Flint, a spokesman for IATA.

"Lots of changes have taken place over the past 50 years," he said. "The old rules no longer do a good job of addressing this problem."

For example, under the 1963 laws, the country where the plane is registered has legal jurisdiction over offenses on a plane.

But today about 40 percent of commercial planes are leased, meaning the country where the plane is registered is not always the country where the airline is based, according to IATA.

A meeting has been scheduled for March by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a branch of the United Nations, to discuss new rules on how to deal with unruly passengers. A location for the meeting has not been set.

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