A bare knuckle truth about the aviation industry is that globally, the airports and airlines struggle between balancing the impact of aviation on environment and customer satisfaction.
Around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions come from aviation. In combination with other gases and the water vapour trails produced by aircraft, the aviation industry is responsible for around 5% of global warming as its contribution in the same (radiative forcing) is proportionately large. Stefan Gössling, a professor at Linnaeus and Lund universities in Sweden who specializes in sustainable tourism, especially in the light of climate change has stated that water and soot, along with other gases, including nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides, have a capability of trapping additional heat at flight altitude.
If left unmitigated, aviation emissions are expected to double or triple by 2050 and would consume up to a quarter of the global carbon budget under a 1.5 degree scenario.
Internationally, the focus needs to be on Sustainable Advanced Fuels (SAF). E-kerosene as published in the European Union draft legislation, also known as the ReFuelEU paper, should be considered as a technologically viable solution to replace conventional fossil jet fuel.
Further, an expected lifespan of an aircraft is perhaps thirty years. Even if zero emission aircraft are developed, which in itself is a challenge, it will take several decades to replace aircrafts currently being deployed in service.
India, has recently taken up initiations, such as building Greenfield airports wherein the intention is to divert air traffic from existing airports located in urban areas to outskirts of urban city centres where impact will be very less due to natural environment or creation of such environment through plantation. Such airports would have a multiplier effect on the hospitality, tourism and local economy. The long-term implications include development of the industrial infrastructure, and a spur in manufacturing and export. So far, 21 airports across 11 states and the Union territory of Puducherry have been approved for the same.
Further, as informed under Unstarred Question in Lok Sabha on 17th March, 2022, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Association of India has estimated that about 85% of MRO work is being carried outside India. The total size of the MRO market is estimated to be about 2 billion dollars. In the light of this, the Government has taken various steps through “Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan”, “Make in India”, National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016 and recently through release of revised Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) guidelines w.e.f. 1st September, 2021 for making India as an MRO hub. The Indian MRO industry has shown growth as a total of 10 new MROs have been approved in India since the Goods and Services Tax on MRO was reduced from 18% to 5%.
At our end, we must restrict our travels. When possible, business meetings should be held online. Studies show that if everyone on Earth took one round trip short-haul flight per year, aircraft emissions would exceed Japan’s. If everyone in the world took just one long-haul flight per year, such emissions would be second only to China as a source of CO2, according to International Council on Clean Transportation analysis. To counter global warming, all the stakeholders, airports, airlines and passengers, have to act in a prudent manner.
On the aspect of customer satisfaction, India has devised schemes to enhance and provide a simple and easy passenger experience. Every passenger, being an Indian citizen or foreigner can enjoy the privileges and benefits of the “Digi Yatra”’ Program. Digi Yatra Central Ecosystem is aligned to the global processes of International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass for interoperability enabling seamless international travel.
One of the main objectives of this program is to deliver a seamless, paperless and hassle-free experience to all passengers across all processors/ Check-points at all Indian airports. The process to be followed at airports is, at the entry point E-Gate a pax will scan the passenger’s boarding pass or e-ticket (Print or a soft copy).On scanning the barcode/ QR code, the system will validate the passenger details and flight details. Further, Digi Yatra ID will verify the identity by Face Recognition. Once the verification of Ticket and Digi Yatra ID is successful, e-Gate will open. The passenger will enter the security area and aircraft Boarding through e-Gate operated on Facial Recognition System.
However, Indian airports are still behind other international airports towards becoming more consumer-friendly. Provisions pertaining to various protocols and facilities have to be improvised. One such provision could be related to prohibited and restricted items. For instance, a passenger carrying pepper spray, an item used for self defence, would be stopped and may be questioned for carrying the same, which could even result in inability to catch the fight. To avoid such scenarios or to allow such items to be taken in hand baggage with due care and caution, provisions have to be in place.
In the United States, 3-1-1 liquid rule is followed for carry-ons. This rule allows passengers to bring liquids in their carry-on under two conditions: bottles must be 3.4 ounces or smaller, and they must fit into a clear bag no bigger than one quart. A Pepper Spray container of 4 fl. oz. (118 ml) is permitted in checked baggage provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. A self-defence spray containing more than 2 percent by mass of tear gas (CS or CN) is prohibited in checked baggage. The device and ingredients must meet the specifications of a self-defence spray as described in 49 CFR 171.8 and must include a positive means to prevent accidental discharge (such as an additional cap that flips up). However, it is also recommended to check with the airline as some may not allow such items in checked bags.
Aeroflot Russian Airlines allows non-hazardous liquids, gels and aerosols, in containers of up to 100 ml (or equivalent capacity in other units for measuring volume) packed in a securely sealed transparent plastic bag 1 litre or less in volume – one bag per passenger in hand baggage.
If such provisions can’t be extended to passengers in India, then facilities such as post offices at airports should be set-up. So that items which can’t be taken in hand baggage but are otherwise permitted to be taken in checked baggage should be allowed to be couriered to the destination location. Such a facility is available at Chennai airport, wherein, both passengers & visitors can avail the facility of postal service at the Airport. The counter is conveniently located at Domestic Departure level and the postal services are available from 10:00 hrs – 18:00 hrs from Monday to Saturday.
Such facilities would allow cargo operations at various Indian airports, especially international ones, making the travel easier and less stressful. Additionally, these post offices would take care of provisions already in place for items considered as Special Baggage, such as having sports equipment, bicycles, LCD and LED TVs of size more than 99.06 cms, and other large and/or odd-sized items, including cartons with dimensions (L+W+H) exceed 158 cms. Since special baggage is submitted as checked baggage, this would save passengers from any excess baggage charges that might be applicable.
Further, arrangements such as the one made when a ban on laptops and other large electronic devices was imposed in 2017 on flights to the US. Passenger’s devices were removed, wrapped in bubble wrap and placed into boxes for storage during the flight. At the destination, once the passport control and immigration procedure was complete, the boxed electronics were ready for collection near the checked luggage belt.
With the resumption of flights, such facilities may be advantageous to attract tourists to India.
India could further work on provision related to booking of tickets, airline timings, and compensation to be granted in case of damage to a passenger or his goods given in the care of the airline.
The Warsaw Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air, 1929 to which India is a party, is the first and the most important international convention as it firmly establishes and elaborates the principles of the air carrier’s liability for damage caused to passengers, baggage goods, and for the damage caused due to delay in the aircraft. In case of any damage, the onus lies on the carrier to prove that the carrier and their servants and agents applied all the reasonable care.
The Convention is followed by its most successful amendment, widely known as the Montreal Convention, 1999. The Montreal Convention removed the monetary cap limiting the carriers’ liability. However, contributory negligence on the part of the passengers continued in the new rules. The Convention further provides rules for the liability of the carrier for loss; damage or delay to baggage.
As far as the first step of air travel is concerned, that is booking of air tickets, passengers with just First name or Last name often feel helpless. As while booking, airlines mandatorily ask for these details. Further, First or Given names submitted with a single Alphabet are not permitted. Additionally, in case of International travel, the name should be entered and matched exactly as it appears on the passport i.e. complete Surname and Given name.
Often, airlines permit passengers with a single name, i.e. either Surname or Given name to repeat that single name for both in the “Surname” field and “Given name” field. Filling the name box with LNU (last name unknown) is also permitted. However, it is often advised to check up with the airline before booking a ticket. As on failure to comply with such mandates, passengers are restricted from boarding the flight. Therefore, to ease up the booking process, especially for the first timers, such unnecessary mandates must be corrected. The same could be done through the program of Digi Yatra. Issues such as those faced by passengers having a passport of the UAE wherein the passenger’s name is written along with father’s name could also be taken care of.
The next big step is to reach the airport on time. But, what if the passenger reads the time wrongly, as often most non-English speaking countries such as where German or French is spoken, follow the 24-hour clock, while in English-speaking countries such as the US and the Commonwealth countries, the 12-hour clock is used more often. While in some countries such as the UK, both formats are used as per the needs.
The biggest loophole in the 12-hour clock format is that it is often not clear how 00:00, 12:00 and 24:00 are represented. Further, whether the time between “12:00 a.m./p.m.” starts at 00:00 or at 12:00, i.e. the 12-hour clock format is often difficult to understand. People who are used to the 24:00 format will occasionally misunderstand 12:00 pm. Even people who are used to am/pm will occasionally misunderstand 12:00 pm. Whereas on a 24-hour clock, all times from 00:00-11:59 are the morning hours and all times from 12:00-23:59 are the afternoon/evening hours.
Therefore, as per the International Standard ISO 8601, the notation for the time of day is hh:mm:ss. This standard notation should be in 24 hour format which in turn will help to avoid confusion in international communication caused by the many different national notations.
However, different airlines follow different formats. Virgin America uses a 12-hour time format, while Qatar Airways always uses a 24-hour time format.
Further, times for flights are almost always given as local time, i.e., the departure and arrival aren’t always given in the same time zone. For a non-frequent flyer, boarding a plane under such a scenario could be terrifying. Such a flight could be even more challenging if there are delays or rescheduling of the flight.
Therefore, wherever an ambiguity appears with respect to time, Indian airports must make sure that the passengers are provided with the time of arrival or departure in both the formats, so that passengers from across the world are able to read the time correctly, especially when the flight is from or to a country which does not follow 24-hour clock format. This would help them to plan their trips efficiently and avoid missing flights.
Further, to improve passenger experience, Indian airports may allow or make facilities for non-passengers to see off their loved ones catching flight. Such facilities are already in place, for instance at the Hyderabad airport, wherein, a visitor’s gallery is accessible for Rs 100 per person per hour. The gallery extends up to the check-in halls, and passengers can talk to their loved ones through holes provided on the glass window separating the visitor’s gallery and the International Departure hall. The said facility could be extended for domestic travellers as well. Similarly, at Chandigarh Mohali Airport, visitors after paying the visitor entry fee of Rs 30 per person are allowed to enter the airport. Though the visitors are not allowed to go to the check-in counter or through security gates, sufficient facilities such as chairs in an airconditioned waiting hall with access to a snack shop, drinking water and toilets are available for them. Madurai provides Terminal Entry for Rs 50 per person for 4 hours to access upto Public Concourse Area. At the Kolkata airport, a visitor’s entry ticket was available for entry into the Arrival Visitor Area for Rs 75 for 2 hours, which has been discontinued for the time being. Such facilities were also available at the Delhi airport, and Mumbai airport, however they were discontinued a few years back.
In the global scenario, the Tampa International Airport (Florida) All Access program, introduced in May 2019, allows a non-passengers with a visitor pass to visit airside bars, restaurants and passengers waiting areas in the terminal from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. TPA has four airside areas (A, C, E and F) and each has its own security checkpoint. The MSY Guest Pass program at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is available daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and applications are to be submitted at least 24 hours in advance.
It’s time to bring the ‘good old days’ back when passengers could be accompanied by a family member or a friend to the airport, spend a little more time together and save the goodbyes until boarding. This would allow children and old passengers to be escorted by their family members through various checkpoints at the airport. Therefore, India must make further efforts to provide and improve visitor’s entry at the airport.
This would also ensure prevention of incidents of fake e-tickets. In 2018, as per Central Industrial Security Force data, a total of 140 incidents (about 26 per cent more) of illegal entries of passengers using fake or cancelled e-tickets were intercepted till early December. It has been noted that such illegal entry of offenders was done in the sheer desire to see off a family member or friend by showing a paper printout or mobile-based PDF attachment of an air ticket, that had been cancelled, to CISF security personnel at the gate. Most of those who are caught with forged tickets are questioned when they are exiting the building.
Therefore, in 2018, increasing incidents of fake e-tickets usage to gain illegal entry into Indian airports led security agencies to buckle up their biometric or barcode-based access systems for passengers. It is pertinent to note, till now no such offender turned out to be a terrorist. Under Digi Yatra, it is proposed to have a centralised registration system for passengers and each of them would get a unique ID. The ID can be created by sharing name, e-mail id, mobile number and details of any identity proof, including Aadhaar and would be shared by passengers at the time of booking tickets. With such provisions in place, the prohibitions such as no entry of non-passengers could be removed. Airports in this respect should be treated on the same lines as a railway station or a bus stop. Afterall, in the fear of a terror act (which if have to happen can happen anywhere, be it Chandni Chowk or an airport), keeping the non-passengers from seeing off their loved ones is unfair for them.
Providing such visitors’ facilities would also keep a check on instances where unnecessary security procedures cause threat to one’s personal dignity. A study showed that more invasive forms of security procedures are associated with a higher perceived threat to personal dignity.
Recently, the Supreme Court of India gave its ruling on a incidence of 2012 and held that persons with disabilities should not be asked to remove prosthetic limbs at airport security checks. Further, no person with a disability should be manually lifted without consent, terming the act of doing so as inhumane, and if someone has a prosthetic limb or calliper, the security check at an airport should be done in a manner that does not violate the person’s dignity and s/he doesn’t have to remove the prosthetic. The draft Civil Aviation Requirements guideline mentions scanning of prosthetic limbs/callipers through use of a full body scanner.
Tort claims (such as the above-mentioned) are difficult to make in the context of passenger screening for several reasons. First, agents operating at security checks for screening have immunity if they are acting under the discretionary function of the Airports Authority of India. Second, it is difficult to prove that the passenger screening device or process caused an injury to the passenger. However, the agents must be aware of potential injuries that could be resulted from the excessive use of their power.
Moreover, under the Montreal Convention, 1999, Article 17 of the Convention states that the “carrier is liable for damages sustained in the event of death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger”. Article 18 of the Convention provides that the “carrier is also liable for damage to checked baggage or goods”. As per Article 19 of the Convention, the carrier has been made “liable for damage occasioned by delay in the carriage of passengers, baggage or goods by air”.
The Warsaw Convention, 1929, allowed recovery for accidents limited to bodily injury. The Montreal Convention though retained the same language of bodily injury, the member states had already interpreted it to include mental injury. On the aspect of recovery for emotional harm, the courts of various member states have adopted ‘zone of danger rule’ wherein plaintiffs are allowed to recover damages for emotional trauma despite the fact that plaintiff was not actually injured, but nearly was.
In Jack v. Trans World Airlines, wherein the flight at Kennedy Airport departed for San Francisco experienced an aborted takeoff and subsequent fire. Although the fire had completely destroyed the plane, all the passengers survived. Passengers later claimed damages for the trauma they had to experience due to the fire and the crash. The court stated that the “emotional distress be caused by the physical harm, fearing the happenstance of getting scratched on the way down the evacuation slide might enable one passenger to obtain a substantially greater recovery than that of an unscratched co-passenger who was equally terrified by the plane crash”. Therefore, recovery is allowed in cases where psychological injury is accompanied by physical injury.
In India, in National Aviation Company of India Ltd. v. S. Abdul Salam, popularly known as Mangalore Air Crash, wherein due to an error by the pilot an international air flight from Dubai to Mangalore crashed killing 158 people and injuring 10 people including the crew. The lower court granted compensation of 1 lakh Special Drawing Rights. Then a writ petition was filed by the respondent in the Kerala High court for raising the compensation. The Kerala High Court provided certain factors that influence the determination of the compensation which include the age of the deceased passenger, their educational background, their status of the job, their last salary drawn, their marital status, their economic status, the number of dependents, and the extent of dependency.
Along with programs such as the Digi Yatra, India must formulate comprehensive provisions for recovery of damages caused by the airports/airlines and other surfacing torts.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is already working on the country’s first facial recognition technology-based biometric boarding system for passengers at Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata and Vijayawada airports and three joint venture airports, Hyderabad, Bangalore and New Delhi. The biometric boarding system is part of the first phase of Digi Yatra scheme’s implementation and has completed its preliminary testing of the Digi Yatra biometric boarding system at the said airports.
A global survey on ‘Effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the aviation sector’ revealed that 63% of the respondents were keen to implement facial recognition at airports. At the top airports, 24% of passengers had already been introduced to facial identification, while another 12% adopted fingerprints to enable safe and contactless travel for passengers. Further the survey revealed that “Currently, 23% use QR codes, and 15% use RFID. But 9% do not use any of the technology”.
In view of Covid pandemic, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security issued an Addendum to its AVSEC Circular No. 05/2019 for installation of Full Body Scanners at Sensitive and Hyper-Sensitive airports by March, 2022.
The initiatives being taken by the authorities would be futile if passengers do not understand the protocols and show full cooperation with the staff at the airport.
A few passengers do not even do the bare minimum required to keep airports safe and planes hazard-free.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation of India has banned electronic cigarettes. If the same are discovered during the screening, security personnel shall confiscate them for disposal.
Despite aeroplanes being smoke-free zones, the toilets are equipped with ashtrays. The same is because some passengers still continue to smoke on aeroplanes. Such ashtrays in the toilet provide a place to put out a cigarette, other than in the waste bin, or somewhere less desirable where such actions can result in an in-flight fire aboard the aeroplane.
As per IATA forecasts, by 2037 around 500 million people are expected to fly to, from or within India. Thus, India has to have a vision to be prepared to accommodate a billion passengers by 2040. Moreover, the services sector contributes over 50 per cent to India’s GDP. Covid-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on most sectors of the economy, and among all the sectors, the services sector has been the worst affected as its’ share in India’s Gross Value Added declined from 55 per cent in 2019-20 to 53 per cent in 2021-22 (As per the Advance Estimates of 2021-22).
In conclusion, if steps are taken in the right direction, GPD loss and the economy of India could be recovered along with improved customer satisfaction. Although the Indian Government is taking steps towards striking a positive balance between both customer satisfaction and sustainable development, there are still too many loopholes in the same. As sustainable development is largely about people, their well-being, and equity in their relationships with each other it goes in tandem with customer satisfaction making every individual/customer equally responsible for the changes they desire. Therefore, to stride forward in the right direction both the government and the customers have to work hand in hand with each other.
5. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/air-space-magazine/what-determines-an-airplanes-lifespan-29533465/ and https://www.transportenvironment.org/challenges/planes/jet-fuels/
7. A Greenfield airport is conventionally referred to as an aviation facility being developed on empty land or previously undeveloped land and an airport whose commissioning, planning & construction process is carried out from the scratch/grassroot level.
14. Transportation Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/liquids-rule
15. This safety measure was instated in August 2006, after the U.K. government uncovered a terror plot to blow up flights between England and North America with an explosive cocktail disguised in soda bottles. After the incident, liquids were initially prohibited from carry-ons entirely. Since then, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have conducted explosive tests to determine that liquids, aerosols, and gels are safe to bring aboard an aircraft in limited quantities. Plus, consolidating the bottles into one bag that you take out of your carry-on bag lets security officers clear the items quickly. https://www.rd.com/list/airplane-safety-rule-reasons/
18. Containers of more than 100 ml are not accepted for transportation even if partially filled, except for: medicine, special dietary items and baby food, including breast milk, which are allowed for transportation in the volume required for the duration of the flight. For more details, please visit https://www.aeroflot.ru/ru-en/information/airport/security.
20. https://www.aai.aero/en/node/2492; and
Exceptions would include dangerous or obnoxious or which may cause inconvenience to passengers and all such goods which are prohibited for the carriage under the Indian aircraft rules 1934, the Indian Postal Act 1898 and all restricted items as per the guidelines of International Air Transport Association.
23. Article 17 of the Convention states that the “carrier is liable for damages sustained in the event of death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger”. Article 18 of the Convention provides that the “carrier is also liable for damage to checked baggage or goods”. Moreover, in Article 19 of the Convention, the carrier has been made “liable for damage occasioned by delay in the carriage of passengers, baggage or goods by air”.
26. For instance, a passenger while booking a flight from the US to Qatar would be following the 12-hour clock and while going back to the US, using the same site in Qatar would be booking a flight with 24-hour clock. Such a scenario can only confuse the passenger, and if much attention is not given to such details, might end up missing the flight.
31. https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/Entry-of-visitors-to-T3-closed-indefinitely/article14012693.ece&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1648343366339090&usg=AOvVaw2sWK83m75pEhwu6ys_fX1N and https://csmia.adaniairports.com/visitors-entry.aspx
36. In 2019, one Manpreet Singh was held while he was leaving Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport. According to an official, Manpreet Singh told the CIFS officials that he used a cancelled ticket to Doha for entering the terminal to see off his sister and niece.
In 2019, a man was stopped by the security personnel late on Saturday when he was leaving the Terminal-3 (T3) building of the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport. The passenger told security personnel that he used a “cancelled” air ticket to Hong Kong for entering the terminal to see off his parents who were travelling abroad, he said.
37. Doug Alards-Tomalin, Tamara L. Ansons, Tara C. Reich, Yumiko Sakamoto, Rita Davie, Jason P. Leboe-McGowan, Launa C. Leboe-McGowan, Airport security measures and their influence on enplanement intentions: Responses from leisure travellers attending a Canadian University, Journal of Air Transport Management, Volume 37, 2014, Pages 60-68, ISSN 0969-6997, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jairtraman.2014.02.004.
38. A city-based disability activist Jeeja Ghosh, whose cerebral pa-lsy had never been a hurdle for her while travelling around the world on her own and attending conferences, was forcibly offloaded from a flight in Kolkata in February 2012 after the crew decided that she was not fit to travel unaccompanied. Shocked and humiliated, she had taken the airline to court, leading to the landmark judgement in May 2016. The airline had to pay Rs10 lakh as damages for the mental and physical suffering that Ghosh had undergone as a result of “unreasonable discrimination” meted out to her and “total lack of sensitivity” on the part of the staff in evicting her from the flight.
39. https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/persons-with-disabilities-should-not-be-asked-to-remove-prosthetic-limbs-at-airport-security-checks-supreme-court-186823 and https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/supreme-court-bats-for-disabled-rights-at-airports/articleshow/88082839.cms
40. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 1996. Airline Passenger Security Screening: New Technologies and Implementation Issues. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/5116.
42. Dr. Bipin Kumar, Judicial Perception (International & Indian) of Liability & Compensation in Air Craft Accidents, Amity International Journal of Law and Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume II, Issue No. III, July 2018.
43. Gillman v. Burlington Northern R.R. Co., 878 F.2nd 1020 (7th Cir. 1989)
44. 854 F. Supp. 654 (N.D.Cal. 1994)
45. 2011 (4) KLJ 235
46. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/airlines-/-aviation/aai-working-on-indias-first-facial-recognition-based-passenger-boarding-system-government/articleshow/88054660.cms and https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/7-airports-complete-preliminary-testing-of-digi-yatra-biometric-boarding-system-101639675789579.html#:~:text=The%20Digi%20Yatra%20scheme%20will,system%20of%20the%20departing%20airport.
47. Unstarred question, Lok Sabha, 6th December, 2021. http://loksabhaph.nic.in/Questions/QResult15.aspx?qref=31304&lsno=17
48. Conducted by Lisbon-based leading biometrics travel and e-identity management solutions firm Vision-Box
49. Unstarred Question, Lok Sabha, 17th March, 2022. http://loksabhaph.nic.in/Questions/QResult15.aspx?qref=35131&lsno=17
50. According to Time, a British Airways flight to Mexico was grounded due to insufficient ashtrays.
The author Pragati Dhawan has contributed this write-up during her research assistantship at M/s. Black Robes Legal. The views, thoughts, and opinions, as are so expressed, belong solely to the author, and not to any other person in any manner whatsoever.