When you're flying at altitude, there is nothing worse than having your peace disrupted by unruly passengers, plus they can pose a health and safety hazard. To address this, new rules will come into force on 1 January 2020 to strengthen the powers of states to prosecute disruptive passengers.

Two angry passengers on a flight
There is nothing worse than having your peace disrupted by unruly passengers © Digital Vision/Getty Images

Incidents on board flights that cause issues include physical assault, harassment, smoking or failing to follow crew instructions. These may compromise flight safety, cause significant delays and operational disruption and adversely impact the travel experience and work environment for passengers and crew. Thanks to a legal gap under the Tokyo Convention 1963, jurisdiction over offenses committed on board international flights rests with the state where the aircraft is registered. This causes issues when unruly passengers are delivered to the authorities upon landing in foreign territories.

Plane.jpg
The new global treaty strengthens the powers of states to prosecute unruly passengers © Frans Sellies/Getty Images

The new Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14), which is short for the Protocol to Amend the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, is a global treaty that strengthens the powers of states to prosecute unruly passengers. "Everybody on board is entitled to enjoy a journey free from abusive or other unacceptable behavior," says Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). "But the deterrent to unruly behavior is weak. About 60% of offenses go unpunished because of jurisdictional issues."

A blurred airport police car
Airlines are working on a range of measures to help prevent incidents © DAA

In addition to strengthening jurisdiction and enforcement, airlines are working on a range of measures to help prevent incidents and manage them more effectively when they happen. These include enhanced crew training and raising awareness with passengers of the potential consequences of bad behavior on board. While MP14 strengthens the deterrent to unruly behavior by enabling prosecution in the state where the aircraft lands, IATA says the "job is not done." "We encourage more states to ratify MP14 so that unruly passengers can be prosecuted according to uniform global guidelines," de Juniac says.

Explore related stories

Dominical, Costa Rica - An aerial view of a car driving along a dirt road surrounded by water on either side.  © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Destination Practicalities

Getting around in Costa Rica

Jul 3, 2024 • 6 min read