By ADAKU WALTER
Local airline operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), have pushed for stiffer sanctions against unruly passengers, which may include ban and fines in extreme cases.
The operators said they would no longer condone cases of assaults on staff and crew members, public intoxication and verbal abuses by irate passengers.
Changes in air travel patterns and flight delays have caused frustrated air travelers to push back violently at airlines.
Nigerian airports have had a fair share of irate passengers attacking officials and destroying facilitation equipment in protest against flight delays and cancellations.
Recently, some passengers attacked Max Air at Abuja airport and destroyed computers and other equipment at the check-in counter.
Following the development, President of the AON, Abdulmunaf Yunusa, urged the Federal Government, the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to beef up security at the nation’s airports and ensure that the life of airline staff members and their property were protected, The Trumpet gathered.
“May we also state that should a similar occurrence like the unfortunate case with Max Air happen to any of our members going forward, AON may be forced to have a rethink on how to respond in such circumstances,” Yunusa said.
Another member of the association said the zero-tolerance policy for unruly conduct should go a step further with a lengthy ban and fines to deter would be perpetrators.
“It is obvious that a lot of Nigerians have found the operators as easy targets for the expression of their frustrations. The system has been condoning them and I fear a major safety breach will occur someday.
“Ideally, anyone caught henceforth should be given stiffer sanctions that should include ban from air travel, fined, named and shamed publicly, if we are serious about curtailing extreme violent behavior at our airports,” he said.
The operators recognised that the extant rules prohibit unruly conduct. For instance, Part 17.92.1 of Nigeria CARs 2012, Vol. II states: “Any passenger who becomes unruly at the airport terminal or onboard an aircraft commits an offence.”
Part 17.92.2(c)(d)(e)(f) defines the word “unruly” as fighting or other disorderly conduct on board an aircraft or at the terminal building; any conduct/act constituting a nuisance to other passengers; disobedience of lawful instructions issued by the aircraft commander, flight crew, cabin attendants, check-in staff and/or security screening staff; and any conduct that endangers or is likely to endanger the safety of flight operations, among others.
Yunusa, who is Chairman of Azman Air, noted the airport vicinity remained a sensitive and sacrosanct environment where people are not allowed to behave callously and uncontrollably.
“A situation where passengers are allowed to have access to sensitive, restricted areas of the airport and attack airline workers or prevent a plane from departing to other destinations because if a particular flight is delayed or cancelled, it puts the country in a bad light in the international community.
“Issues of delay or cancellation can be addressed in a civil manner without resorting to violence. The unruly passengers that went after Max Air and destroyed the computer reservation systems exacerbated the problem for other passengers going to other destinations. Such acts are completely unacceptable.
“AON understands the frustration whenever a flight is delayed or cancelled and we apologise to passengers on behalf of airlines for such delays or cancellations. It is however, instructive to note that delays happen worldwide and some conditions cause them,” he stated.