NEW YORK - A global treaty developed to improve the ability of nations to prosecute unruly behaviour by passengers on international flights took effect on Jan. 1. The U.S., however, is not a signatory.
We encourage more [nation] states to ratify MP14 so that unruly passengers can be prosecuted according to uniform global guidelines.
The treaty, known as Montreal Protocol 2014, or MP14, was able to enter into force after Nigeria, in late November, became the required 22nd country to ratify it.
The treaty’s most notable provision expands the way jurisdictional authority is defined for international flights: It widens law enforcement jurisdiction to include the country where the flight is scheduled to land.
Under the 1963 Tokyo Convention, for which the U.S. is among 186 ratifying nations, jurisdiction over passenger offences is held by the nation where the aircraft is registered. But that definition creates scenarios in which unruly passengers cannot be arrested, since the country in which they disembark has no legal authority in the matter.
IATA, which helped champion MP14 to its passage by the International Civil Aviation Organization, says that this loophole is the reason that prosecution doesn’t go forward in approximately 60% of unruly-passenger cases.
“The treaty is in force,” IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said following Nigeria’s ratification. “But the job is not done. We encourage more [nation] states to ratify MP14 so that unruly passengers can be prosecuted according to uniform global guidelines.”
The most recent data put forward by IATA shows that reported unruly-passenger incidents on its member airlines increased substantially between 2012 and 2015 before dropping in 2017 to levels slightly higher than in 2013.
In 2017, 8,731 unruly-passenger incidents were reported, equivalent to one for every 1,053 flights. Unruly-passenger incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment, verbal abuse, smoking and failure to follow safety instructions.
Neither the US State Department nor the Department of Homeland Security would say why the U.S. has not supported the treaty. But concerns about whether the protocol would undermine the authority of federal air marshals might have played a role.