Australia’s major airlines have voluntarily signed up to a new Code of Practice on Passenger Behaviour after reporting increased disruptive and abusive behaviour towards airport and flight crew in the wake of “ever changing” vaccine and protective mask mandates.
Airlines Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and Rex have jointly announced the new code of practice along with an awareness campaign backed by Australian Federal Police and the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA).
Titled “No More Carry-On,” the awareness campaign plays on the concept that while carry on bags are allowed on aircraft, disruptive or abusive “carry-on behaviour” is not.
Airports around the country will carry the messaging on digital billboards along with a message from flight crew.
This comes as the aviation industry has reported a spike in aggression directed at airport and flight crew amid government and corporate mask and mandates linking freedom to fly to vaccination status.
“Whilst the vast majority of travellers do the right thing, we appreciate that navigating the ever-changing rules of travel can at times be challenging and stressful,” Neville Howell, Rex’ chief operating officer, said in the release.
“This initiative, in both the code of conduct and the ‘no more carry on’ campaign, is a timely reminder that whether at the supermarket, a restaurant, the airport, or on an aircraft—we can all do our bit by simply showing patience and having respect for both the teams looking after us and for each other.”
The updated code of practice means that airlines can now refuse to allow passengers to board if they are being “offensive or disruptive.”
Passengers can also be made to repay the costs for any diversions or damage to the aircraft as a result of their behaviour and be banned from future travel.
The code will also allow for airlines and airports to engage with law enforcement and CASA to support any administrative or criminal sanctions against a passenger found to have engaged in offensive or disruptive conduct.
Offences include unruly behaviour, smoking on board, consuming alcohol not supplied onboard, failing to comply with safety directions from flight crew, and interfering with a crew member or threatening the safety of other people onboard.
“Passengers need to understand that bad behaviour on an aircraft can put safety at risk,” said Pip Spence, CASA CEO and director of safety.
“It can disrupt the important safety duties of aircraft crew members, cause distractions during critical phases of flight, and jeopardise the safety of other passengers.”
Substantial penalties can be imposed on passengers who don’t comply with any safety-related instructions given by crew, Spence said.
Australian domestic travel has resumed to mostly normal levels in time for families to reunite at Christmas after Queensland and other states reopened their borders to vaccinated travellers.
The border reopening was tied to states and territories reaching a rate of 80 percent vaccination against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“While the vast majority of passengers do the right thing, unfortunately as with the hospitality and retail industries, we have seen an increase in the number of people behaving badly,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
“At airports and on aircraft, critical safety procedures must be followed. There is no room for disruptive behaviour and we will act quickly to stop unruliness to ensure everyone remains safe.
Virgin Australia’s Chief Operations Officer Stuart Aggs said the campaign was to remind people that flight crew were doing everything they could to safely welcome passengers back to the skies.”
“Overwhelmingly, we see people doing the right thing, and that’s fantastic and very appreciated,” he said.