Where do unruly airline passengers get prosecuted? An aviation expert explains

Presenter John Maytham chats to Luvuyo Silandela, senior legal and compliance manager at the SA Civil Aviation Authority.

  • The prosecution of unruly air passengers is governed by both domestic aviation laws and international agreements.

  • Luvuyo Silandela from the SA Civil Aviation Authority says there isn't a blanket approach when it comes to determining the jurisdiction of such cases.

  • Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies was arrested for unruly behaviour on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Joburg over the weekend.



Image copyright: kasto/123rf.com

Passengers who cause trouble on local and international flights must beware, according to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)'s Luvuyo Silandela.

Silandela, a senior legal and compliance manager at SACAA, says there are various laws that can be used to come down on unruly passengers who commit offences on board.

He says the Civil Aviation Act is the primary South African law that deals with in-flight misconduct, detailing a list of offences and the penalties applicable for each.

The Civil Aviation Act has a list of offences and penalties that seeks to ensure that operations are carried out without any undue hindrance in a manner that is safe and secure.

Luvuyo Silandela, Senior legal and aviation compliance manager - South African Civil Aviation Authority

The Civil Aviation Act states when South Africa has jurisdiction over matters. It sets them out in terms of activities carried out onboard aircraft on South African spaces.

Luvuyo Silandela, Senior legal and aviation compliance manager - South African Civil Aviation Authority

In addition to the laws of a domestic country, Silandela advises that unruly passenger incidents can also be dealt with using international treaties and conventions such as the Tokyo Convention and the Montreal Protocol.

He says that the nationality of the passenger is not the only determining factor when deciding the jurisdiction of the case. In fact, there are cases where there can be concurrent jurisdiction.

Silandela believes that the circumstances of the case often inform how the matter will be prosecuted.

"Our point of departure would be to look at the specific circumstances, what is the alleged conduct/offence? And what is the jurisdiction that would be applicable?"

The conduct of airline passengers was thrown into the spotlight again over the weekend after Springbok rugby player Elton Jantjies was arrested after an alleged outburst on board an Emirates flight.

RELATED: Springbok’s Jantjies arrested for malicious damage to property on a flight

There's a network of legal provisions that would apply to even one specific set of circumstances.

Luvuyo Silandela, Senior legal and aviation compliance manager - South African Civil Aviation Authority

In the area of unruly passengers, one would think of the Tokyo Convention of 1963 as well as the Montreal Protocol. Those are some of the instruments that are in place.

Luvuyo Silandela, Senior legal and aviation compliance manager - South African Civil Aviation Authority

There are growing concerns when it comes to incidents of safety and security, primarily onboard an aircraft... for example, the issue of the wearing of a mask is an issue that needs to be respected and abided whilst on board.

Luvuyo Silandela, Senior legal and aviation compliance manager - South African Civil Aviation Authority

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