Qatar has become the latest country to ratify the Montreal Protocol of 2014 (MP14), making it the 23rd country globally and sixth in Africa & the Middle East region to give formal approval to the treaty, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.
MP14, properly named the Protocol to Amend the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, is a global agreement that strengthens the powers of States to prosecute unruly passengers.
It closes a legal gap under the Tokyo Convention 1963, whereby jurisdiction over offences 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.
"By ratifying the protocol, Qatar has proved its commitment towards aviation safety despite the turbulent time that the world and the industry are going through due to Covid-19," IATA said in a statement on Tuesday.
Following the ratification of 22 states, MP14 entered into force on January 1 this year, enhancing the capacity of States to curb the escalation in the severity and frequency of unruly behaviour on board aircraft.
In July, Qatar became the latest country to ratify MP14, IATA said.
Unruly and disruptive passenger incidents on board flights include physical assault, harassment, smoking or failing to follow crew instructions. These incidents may compromise flight safety, cause significant delays and operational disruption and adversely impact the travel experience and work environment for passengers and crew.
The Covid-19 situation is expected to bring additional challenges for airlines and crew such as risk of new types of unruly behaviour, which includes failing to follow instructions related to Covid-19 measures (for example, wearing of face masks) due to the increased stress imposed on passengers through new processes and their overall travel experience, IATA said, adding this may lead to increased disputes between passengers or with the crew.
The ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) guidance recognises the importance of the issue of treatment of unruly and disruptive passengers and State role in managing and preventing such occurrences.
In addition to strengthening jurisdiction and enforcement, IATA and airlines are working on a range of measures to help prevent incidents and manage them more effectively when they do happen. These include enhanced crew training and raising awareness with passengers of the potential consequences of unruly behavior on board.
IATA said it also encourages states to review the effectiveness of the enforcement mechanisms available to them in line with ICAO Guidance on Legal Aspects of Unruly and Disruptive Passengers (ICAO Document 10117), which gives information on how civil and administrative fines and penalties can be used to supplement criminal prosecutions.
Qatar joins a growing list of States from the Middle East that are parties, including Jordan, Kuwait and others. "Hopefully, this will incentivise countries in the region and globally to follow suit."