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    Jul 25, 2016

    S'pore to further deter unruly air passengers

    SINGAPORE police and courts will get wider powers to deal with troublemakers on flights when new laws are passed in the next six to 12 months.

    This will come before a global ruling by the United Nations to tackle a growing problem of unruly air passengers, The Straits Times has learnt.

    Under current international civil aviation laws stipulated by the Tokyo Convention, Singapore can take action only if the culprit arrives on Singapore Airlines (SIA) or other Singapore carriers.

    This means that troublemakers on foreign carriers usually escape unaffected. To plug this loophole, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) aims to replace the Tokyo Convention with the Montreal Protocol.

    The new protocol, expected to come into force within two to three years, will give countries more teeth to deal with offences like travellers refusing to comply with safety instructions and physically or verbally abusing cabin crew.

    Singapore, which plans to enact its own laws before the global mandate, has consulted airlines operating at Changi Airport.

    All support the initiative, according to a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). "The ability to take such law enforcement action would be a strong deterrence against unruly behaviour on board aircraft arriving in Singapore," she said.

    Tim Colehan, assistant director for member and external relations at the International Air Transport Association (Iata) which represents global carriers, said there has been a rise in unruly behaviour in recent years.

    In 2014, airlines reported 9,316 incidents, or one for every 1,400 flights.

    From 2007 to 2014, the average was one per 1,530 flights.

    In an Iata survey, four out of 10 airlines had to divert a flight in the last 12 months because of troublemakers.

    Singapore Airlines Staff Union president and steward Alan Tan said: "The aim is always to defuse the situation but this is not always possible so we do sometimes have to hand passengers to the local police after landing.

    "But because of a lack of jurisdiction, police may not always be able to act except to issue a warning.

    "This can be quite frustrating."