Hijack scare jolts govt into action | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Hijack scare jolts govt into action

Sunday's drama at the Delhi airport has come as a wake-up call for the aviation authorities who are now planning a series of measures to avoid such scares in the future, reports Sidhartha Roy.

delhi Updated: Feb 03, 2009 23:22 IST
Sidhartha Roy

Sunday's drama at the Delhi airport has come as a wake-up call for the aviation authorities who are now planning a series of measures to avoid such scares in the future.

An Indigo flight from Goa (6E 334) made an emergency landing at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday evening after its pilot told the air traffic control that some unruly passengers had threatened to hijack the plane.

"The one good thing about the incident was that our anti-hijack preparedness was tested," said a senior Civil Aviation Ministry official who didn't wish to be named. "It has also raised a lot of concerns about how such incidents are handled by the airlines," he said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating the incident. "Investigations would reveal if all the standard procedures were followed by all stakeholders," he said.

Stopping troublemakers

The ministry is planning to direct domestic airlines to profile all passengers to prevent troublemakers from getting onboard.

"Airline staff would screen passengers sitting in the departure lounge, without being obtrusive. This way, passengers with suspicious or abnormal behaviour can be better monitored," the official said. "These procedures are in place but not followed," he said.

Training for cabin crew

Senior ministry officials said better training for airline cabin crew could save the day. "In the Indigo flight, the airhostesses could have taken help from some male passengers and tried to overpower Mohla. He could have been tied with a seat and that would have ended all trouble," an official said.

"Cabin crew of private airlines needs better training in risk management and we planning measures to implement that," he said.

Experts support this view. "It is difficult to prevent potential miscreants. How do you know who is going to behave in what way?" said former DGCA chief H.S. Khola. "It is better to train cabin crew to handle such situations."

Don't drink and fly

All pilots and cabin crew have to go through breath analyzer tests for alcohol consumption before they can fly. Should a similar rule be made for passengers to prevent drunken, unruly behaviour?

"Though liquor can't be served on our domestic flights, there is no rule that bars someone who is drunk from flying," the official said. "However, airlines can stop heavily drunk people from flying by declaring them medically unfit," he said.

"It is possible to test every passenger for alcohol levels. It would be very difficult to implement," Khola said. The ministry is planning to educate flyers from avoiding playing such pranks. "We are going to bring out advertisements to make it clear to flyers what such silly behaviour can land them into," he said.