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Govt to tighten penalties for unruly air passengers

Zhao Lei
Updated: Aug 11,2016 7:31 AM     China Daily

Potential ban on use of cellphones during flights questioned, since Western airlines are flexible

Passengers misbehaving aboard a commercial airliner or at an airport may face heavier punishments under a draft amendment to the Civil Aviation Law.

The draft includes 14 types of misconduct that may threaten the safety and order of civil aviation, according to a notice published on the Civil Aviation Administration of China website.

They include distributing fabricated information, using mobile phones or other electronic devices against regulations and smoking in the cabin.

Moreover, taking another person’s seat, blocking check-in counters and boarding gates, disrupting crew members or security inspectors and fighting aboard a plane are also listed.

Violators will face administrative punishment with a fine up to 50,000 yuan ($7,540). If their behaviors are serious, they may face criminal charges, the draft says.

Legislative and civil aviation experts in China have been calling for the inclusion of such misconduct in the Civil Aviation Law. Over the past two years, stories about passengers disrupting flights or insulting crew members have become frequent in the media.

While welcoming the civil aviation authorities’ efforts to ensure passengers’ safety and interests, some people have voiced concerns over the strict ban on the use of mobile phones in the cabin, saying this rule stands in contrast with the common practice at most foreign airlines.

“Considering that the international civil aviation community has demonstrated that using a mobile phone in flight is safe, why are our airlines refusing to admit this?” asked Sina Weibo user Dantengdezhanshibang.

Yuan Tingting, an office worker in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, has the same question.

“I have flown with many foreign carriers and most of them allow passengers to use mobile phones before the plane takes off or lands. I don’t understand why this is completely prohibited in China.”

Wang Ya’nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said that the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency regard the use of mobile phones as having a low-level risk, so they allow airlines to decide whether to ban such activities in their cabins.

“Therefore, some Western airlines permit passengers to use mobile phones during flights if the passengers do not make a call,” he said. “It is understandable that our civil aviation authority treats passenger safety as its top priority, but it should be made clear if all of a mobile phone’s functions are banned from use on board the aircraft, or is merely making a call banned while passengers can use other functions.”