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ICAO To Tackle Unruly Passengers

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The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will meet in March to update 50-year-old rules dealing with in-flight disturbances by passengers. The announcement came after increasing pressure from airlines to beef up their defenses against an increasingly hostile cabin environment. According to the Los Angeles Times, the International Air Transport Association says the number of reported incidents of unruly passengers has increased 12-fold from less than 500 in 2007 to more than 6,000 in 2011. At the same time, many cases go unprosecuted because of the antiquated regulations. "Lots of changes have taken place over the past 50 years," IATA spokesman Perry Flint told the Times. "The old rules no longer do a good job of addressing this problem."

One of the big problems is that the current rules give legal jurisdiction over passenger misbehavior to the country in which the aircraft is registered. In 1963, many airlines were so-called flag carriers and all their aircraft were registered in the country in which the airline was based. These days, about 40 percent of aircraft are leased and registered wherever the leasing company chooses to do the paperwork. Also, the current rules were created mainly to deal with hijackings, which are now almost nonexistent while the disruptive and dangerous antics of some passengers are forcing expensive diversions and cancellations. No site has been selected for the ICAO meeting.

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