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Unruly passenger behaviour and DGCA guidelines for airlines

  • Published
    17th Jan, 2024

The recent incident of passenger hitting the pilot due to delays in taking off of flight has brought back the focus on rise in incidents of unruly behaviour and the response of airline with regard to such behaviour.

How are airlines expected to respond?

  • Actions and Response shall be guided by the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on “Handling of unruly passengers” issued by the aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
  • The airline should first inform the passengers concerned that in case their behaviour is deemed unruly as per the guidelines.

What is Unruly Behaviour?

  • Unruly behaviour includes (but is not limited to): consuming liquor or drugs resulting in unruly behaviour; smoking; not obeying the pilot’s instructions; using threatening or abusive language against crew or other passengers.
  • Physically threatening and abusive behaviour; intentionally interfering with discharge of duties by the crew; and endangering the safety of the aircraft and those on board.
  • If the aircraft was still on ground, the passenger shall be handed over to airport security immediately.
  • In cases of unruly behaviour in the air, the pilot is required to quickly assess if the cabin crew can control the unruly passenger, and accordingly inform the airline’s central control on the ground.
  • If the pilots and the airline’s central control believe that the unruly passenger cannot be brought under control by the cabin crew, they must land as soon as possible at the nearest available airport and handed over to security after registration of FIR.

Procedure post incident

  • The airline must refer the complaint to an internal committee, which must include (i) a retired district and session’s judge as chairman, (ii) a representative of a different airline and, (iii) a representative of a passengers’ association, or consumer association, or a retired officer of a consumer disputes redressal forum.
  • The internal committee is required to decide the matter within 30 days, along with the categorisation of the incident in one of three defined category levels.
  • The committee shall also decide the duration for which the unruly passenger will be banned from flying. The committee’s decision shall be binding on the airline.

And what are the category levels of disruptive passenger behaviour?

The levels define behaviour ranging from verbal harassment to murderous assault.

Level 1: Unruly behaviour, including physical gestures, verbal harassment, and unruly inebriation.

Level 2: Physically abusive behaviour, including pushing, kicking, hitting, and grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment.

Level 3: Life-threatening behaviour, including damage to aircraft operating systems, physical violence such as choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, and attempted or actual breach of flight crew compartment.


  • Ban on passenger for 30 days and Airlines are required to maintain a database of unruly passengers and share it with the DGCA and other airlines. The DGCA maintains a No-Fly List based on the data shared by carriers.
  • For Level 1 and 2 offences, the ban on flying can extend to three months and six months respectively. For a Level 3 offence, the minimum ban should be for 2 years, with no upper limit.

Recourse for Banned passenger

  • An individual who is banned from flying can appeal within 60 days to an Appellate Committee constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and headed by a retired judge of a High Court.
  • An appeal against the appellate panel’s decision shall be made to a High Court.


  • It is the regulatory body in the field of Civil Aviation and primarily deals with safety issues.
  • It is responsible for regulating air transport services to/from/within India.
  • Further its responsibility pertains to enforcement of civil air regulations, air safety and airworthiness standards.
  • It is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India.


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