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China’s ‘monster’ plane passengers to face hefty fines of up to US$7,500 for misbehaving

Draft proposal for new law imposes heavier penalties on those who smoke, refuse to switch off their phones or cause disturbances on planes and airports

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 1:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 11:21pm

Unruly plane passengers in China who use mobile phones, smoke or occupy seats by force will face up to 50,000 yuan (HK$58,200) in fines under a proposed revision to a civil aviation law – a sharp increase from the few hundred yuan they face now.

Those who use other prohibited electronic devices on planes or cause disturbances by filing false reports on dangerous goods will also be subjected to the penalty.

The Civil Aviation Administration posted the proposal – revised from its previous two-decade-old law – on its website this week, seeking public opinion until next month.

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The mainland’s civil aviation industry has grown at double-digit rates for the past five years, with more than 436 million ­people taking flights last year, up 11.3 per cent from 2014. Some 42 million flew overseas.

But as Chinese people travel more often, some of their behaviour at airports and on planes has drawn criticism at home and abroad. Frequent delays and ­cancellations are adding to the problem, with travellers lashing out at frontline staff as they vent their frustrations.

The administration wants more than 10 types of behaviour subject to penalties of up to 50,000 yuan.

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These include barging onto aircraft, occupying seats or ­luggage carriers by force and ­occupying or blocking service counters or security check passages. People who obstruct crew members from their duties or ­instigate other ­passengers to do so will also face punishment.

In June, two economy-class passengers on a Hainan Airlines flight who wanted upgrades to first class injured four cabin attendants and a security officer.

The two men occupied seats in the first class cabin and refused to leave or pay for the price difference before taking off. The scuffle broke out when they argued with cabin crew. They were placed under police investigation and could be added to the national blacklist of disgraced passengers who would not be allowed to fly in the future, the airline said.

A less serious but more common source of tension are mobile phones. Passengers often refuse to switch off their mobile phones on the plane, believing the signal would not affect flight operations since their devices are on flight mode.

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Last August, a passenger ­refused to turn off his phone while his flight from Wuhan, ­Hubei province, was landing near the airport in Beijing, the Beijing Daily reported.

The man was fined 500 yuan after crew members reported him to police.

In November, another passenger was detained for 10 days after he scolded and beat up crew members on a flight from Beijing to Dalian, Liaoning province.

He had lost his temper after he was told to turn off his phone on the plane, The Beijing News ­reported.

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Gina Wu, a Shanghai-based marketing manager, said it was necessary to increase the penalty for such misbehaviour or people would not feel compelled to obey the rules.

Every time I take a plane, I switch off my mobile phone as ­required. But I see people who don’t. This sets a bad example for children
Gina Wu, Shanghai resident

“Every time I take a plane, I switch off my mobile phone as ­required. But I see people who don’t. This sets a bad example for children,” she said.

But information technology engineer Cao Yantao, who often travels abroad, said he found ­requiring plane passengers to keep their phones off the entire duration of the flight unacceptable, as some foreign airlines did not have such requirements.

“It’s quite boring sitting in a plane for many hours and not being able to use your mobile phone,” Cao said.