To ensure that identity of sky marshals on-board flights is kept confidential, it has been decided that marshals serving on domestic routes will stay at NSG hubs.
The decision was taken recently at a meeting convened by the ministry of civil aviation.
A sky marshal is an undercover agent on board a commercial aircraft to counter hijacking. They are deployed on a random basis on domestic flights as well as on those to neighbouring countries.
Sky marshals are drawn from the National Security Guard. “Even in cases where an NSG hub is far from the airport, it would be appropriate that sky marshals stay at the hub instead of a hotel along with other crew members,” an official said.
Besides Delhi, NSG had set-up hubs in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata following the 26/11 attack. In cities without an NSG hub, the cost would be borne by the carrier.
“The key to an air marshal’s job is that his identity remains a secret and he easily blends in with fellow passengers. It is advisable to avoid putting-up in the same hotel where the cabin crew is also staying as a flight marshal’s identity should ideally be known to none on board,” the official said.
“Same facilities need to be extended to a sky marshal as those provided to crew members. Some private carriers had objected to sky marshals owing to expenses involved after, which the Ministry had written to all carrier to treat flying commandos at par with their crew members,” the official said.
Sky marshals had recently threatened to stop flying on Mumbai-Kathmandu sector due to insufficient food and lodging arrangements by airlines. “Staying at NSG hubs would take care of this problem too,” the official said.