Airlines show spine by banning Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, but is it a legal step?

Asmita Sarkar
Airlines show spine by banning Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, but is it a legal step?

In perhaps the first such instance in India, multiple airlines on Friday took a stand against an unruly passenger, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, and banned him from flying on their airlines for assaulting an Air India staff. 

The Federation of India Airlines, which includes IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Go Air, and Air India released a joint statement on Friday, announcing that they are banning the lawmaker from flying on their airlines. They also demanded strict action against the Shiv Sena member and condemned the attack. 

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"We believe that an assault on any one of our employees is an assault on all of us and on ordinary law abiding citizens of our country who work hard to earn a living,'' a FIA statement said. "We believe that an assault on any one of our employees is an assault on all of us and on ordinary law abiding citizens of our country who work hard to earn a living.'' 

The statement added: "In the interest of the safety and security of our colleagues and other customers, we also propose the promulgation of a 'no fly' list which shall include the names of all unruly passengers. Such customers are not welcome on our carriers and we seek the support of the Government and security agencies to enforce such a 'no fly' list." 

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Despite the airlines' strong stand, their action may not have been legal as there is no current regulation that allows them to put a passenger on a 'no fly' list. 

The Central government is looking at the legality of the action taken by the Indian airlines. If they decide that the ban was not legal they may face stiff opposition from all the airlines, which have come together in condemning the politician. Vistara and Air Asia had also rallied in support of other Indian airlines in the matter. 

"The airlines have advised us that they would not be willing to carry this particular passenger (Gaikwad). We are studying their inputs on this matter. This is an action they have taken independently and we are examining it. Any action undertaken has to be lawful; it has to fit in with the general provisions of the law and the Aircraft Act. We are seeing how this whole approach should work. We have to see if this action of the airlines is within the framework of law," Jayant Sinha, Union minister of state for aviation, told TOI.

The no-fly list maintained by the FBI and the TSA in the US have names of suspected terrorists. The FBI list reportedly has 80,000 names while the TSA list comprises 28,000 names. In Canada, the passenger protect or no-fly list is a government initiative and has names of those that pose "immediate threat to aviation security". The number of names on the list is estimated to be anywhere between 500 and 2,000. 

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