Strengthening the law on civil behaviour a fine idea

Proposal to increase penalties to 50,000 yuan on unruly airline passengers deserve support, but the law must be enforced in a fair manner

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 12:52am

Good manners can mean putting up with someone else’s bad manners, but not when air safety may be involved. Mainlanders can make this exception clear in a consultation about proposed tough new penalties for unruly behaviour on planes or at airports. The Civil Aviation Administration is seeking public opinion on its website on a revision of the law providing for fines of up to 50,000 yuan (HK$58,200) for more than 10 types of misbehaviour.

That is a steep increase on current fines of a few hundred yuan. But it is justified by safety concerns prompted by undisciplined behaviour among the hundreds of millions of mainlanders now taking flights each year.

The targeted behaviour includes barging onto aircraft, occupying seats and luggage compartments by force, blocking service counters or security check passages, and defiance of directions from flight and cabin crew.

Such incidents amount to reckless disregard for the comfort and safety of fellow passengers. Frequent cancellations and delays are adding to the problem, with travellers lashing out at frontline staff to vent their frustration.

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

The government has tried to avoid the need for such harsh measures by resorting to public education on acceptable behaviour, but it has failed to stem reports of misconduct that tarnish China’s image. We only get to see or hear about the more sensational or outrageous incidents. Conflict and anger among passengers are everyday occurrences, and not confined to China.

A public hearing held not long ago by an advisory group set up by the US Department of Transportation discounted rising uncivility as the cause, with experts citing pressures arising from more people travelling in seemingly shrinking inflight space and services being pared.

It may not seem so surprising therefore that ill-humoured passengers are clashing over such things as reclining seats, elbow room and storage space.

However, industry analysts maintain that the important factor for most travellers remains price and that creature comforts are a trade-off. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance. Perhaps it’s time for an industry-wide rethink.

Assuming the tougher penalties become law, implementation has to be fair and within the spirit of the rule of law. Only then will they serve the ultimate purpose of encouraging respectful, civil behaviour and enhancing air safety.