In the period 2007-2013 there were over 28,000 reported cases of unruly passenger incidents on board aircraft in flight. These incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment and failure to follow safety instructions.
Unruly passengers are a very small minority. But unacceptable behavior on board an aircraft can have serious consequences for the safety of all on board. They inconvenience other passengers and lead to significant operational disruption and cost for airlines. But due to loopholes in existing laws, there are many cases where those who commit serious offenses are not punished..
IATA and its member airlines have developed guidance and training that aim to prevent unruly behavior and to manage situations effectively when they arise. However, it became apparent that there was an urgent need to review the international legal framework, both to ensure that it deals with the perpetrators and to act as a deterrent to future instances of unruly behavior.
Tokyo Convention & Montreal Protocol
The Tokyo Convention governs offences and other acts that occur on board aircraft inflight. It came in to force in 1969. This 50 year old Convention has served the industry well. However, a Diplomatic Conference was held between 26 March and 4 April 2014 to consider proposed revisions to the Convention to ensure that it is an effective deterrent to unruly behavior.
The result was the Montreal Protocol 2014 which makes important changes to the original Tokyo Convention. This Protocol is good news for everyone who flies – passengers and crew alike. The changes, along with the measures already being taken by airlines, will provide an effective deterrent for unacceptable behavior on board aircraft.
The Protocol extends the jurisdiction over offence to the destination country of the flight in addition to the country of aircraft registration. This closes a loophole which allowed many serious offences to escape legal action.
The agreed changes give greater clarity to the definition of unruly behavior (such as including the threat of or actual physical assault, or refusal to follow safety-related instructions). There are also new provisions to deal with the recovery of significant costs arising from unruly behavior.
A total of 22 States will need to ratify the Protocol before it will enter in to force. IATA has played an important role in the development of the text of the new Protocol since 2009 and we are now advocating for governments to urgently ratify it. Taken together with the operational measures already being taken by airlines to prevent and manage unruly passengers, the Protocol will provide an effective deterrent for unruly behavior by making the consequences of such behavior clear and enforceable. This should lead to safer and a more pleasant air travel experience for all.
Industry core principles on Unruly Passengers
At the 70th IATA AGM in June 2014, the industry unanimously adopted a set of core principles for dealing with the issue of unruly passenger behavior.
The principles call on governments to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014 so they have the legal powers at their disposal to ensure unruly passengers face the appropriate consequences of their actions. Airlines, airports and others must work together to implement the right procedures and train staff to respond effectively to such instances.
Read the AGM resolution on unruly passengers (pdf).
Guidance on Unruly Passenger Prevention and Management
(pdf) - 2015 updated version
The Tokyo Convention 1963 (pdf)
The Montreal Protocol 2014 (pdf)
Joint position paper on Tokyo Convention 1963 revision (pdf)