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Action against passengers who become unmanageable on international flights starts on January 1

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Passengers who cause problems on international flights, beware.

A change to a global treaty will soon make it easier for countries to prosecute passengers on international flights that cause disruptions, delays or flight safety by interfering with other passengers or flight attendants.

Incidents involving unmanageable passengers had become less frequent, but the offenses had become more serious, according to a study by an international airline trading group two years ago. But about 60% of crimes on board have remained unpunished, the study found.

The problem stems from a 1963 agreement between 186 countries, known as the Tokyo Convention, which granted jurisdiction over the prosecution of an unmanageable passenger to the nation where the aircraft is registered. This means that kites that get drunk and combative on a flight from American Airlines to France can only be prosecuted in the US, where American Airlines is registered, not in France, where the aircraft lands.

Last week, Nigeria joined 21 other countries to ratify an amendment to the Tokyo Convention, which gave the change the support it needed for the change to take effect on January 1. The amendment allows countries where the aircraft lands to prosecute a troublemaker on an international flight.

"Everyone on board has the right to enjoy a voyage without abuse or other unacceptable behavior," said Alexandre de Juniac, director general and general manager of International Air Transport Assn., A global airline trading group, in a statement . "But the deterrent for unmanageable behavior is weak."

The necessary 22nd nation to ratify the amendment came on November 26, when the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Fang Liu, accepted the approval of the amendment by Nigeria.

“The protocol addresses the problem of increasing incidents of unmanageable and disruptive behavior on board aircraft due to the ability of (countries) to extend jurisdiction over relevant violations and acts to the (countries) of landing and (country) of the operator significantly, "Liu said in a statement." The protocol will also serve to improve global aviation security provisions by explicitly extending legal recognition and protection to in-flight security officers. "

Statistics on unmanageable passengers on flights between 2007 and 2017.

(International Air Transport Assn.)

In 2017 there were 8,731 incidents of unmanageable passengers on flights operated by airlines that are members of IATA, the airline trading group, compared to 9,837 in the previous year. A vast majority of incidents involve excessive drinking, according to an IATA study.

But the number of serious incidents on planes increased. The cases in which passengers waved weapons or threatened the lives of passengers or crew members increased according to IATA to 279 in 2017 from 66 in 2016.

Very serious incidents – defined as a cockpit deck violation, sabotage or credible threat of seizing the aircraft – rose to 50 in 2017 from 20 in 2016, IATA said.

The cost of redirecting an aircraft due to an unmanageable passenger can range from $ 10,000 to $ 200,000, depending on the circumstances, the trading group estimated.

In the US, the FAA said it recorded 90 incidents of unmanageable passengers in 2017, compared to 101 incidents the year before. In 2000, the agency increased the fine for causing a failure in an aircraft from $ 1,100 to as much as $ 25,000.

"The safety and well-being of every traveler is and remains the top priority for American airlines," said Katherine Estep, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trading group for the largest airlines in the US. "Our members take these matters seriously and inappropriate behavior there will be no tolerance towards crew or passengers. "

A man accused of sexually abusing a roommate during a 2017 flight from Los Angeles to Panama may have escaped prosecution for confusion over who has jurisdiction over crimes on international flights.

The problem of unmanageable pilots has led some airlines to take unusual measures.

In 2016, a passenger started attacking other pilots and flight attendants on a Korean Air flight from Vietnam to South Korea.

In response, Korean Air began to strengthen its security measures, including improved training of flight attendants in the use of stun guns. Airline representatives also said the airline was considering assigning at least one male flight attendant on each flight to help subdue disorderly pilots.

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