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Russia: New Rules for Air Passengers

(June 28, 2013) On June 7, 2013, the Law on Amendments to the Air Code of the Russian Federation was signed by the Russian President. (Law No. 124-FZ [in Russian], June 7, 2013, ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA (June 11, 2013) [official publication].) These newly adopted amendments make air travel more accessible for people with disabilities.

The Law introduces requirements for equipment needed to assist disabled people in airports and on board Russian aircraft. The Law also establishes in the Air Code rules on the training and periodic certification of airport and airline personnel in assisting passengers with special needs. For the first time, the Air Code proclaims the principle of equal treatment of all passengers and makes it illegal for airlines to limit travel options for disabled people based on a claim of the lack of required equipment. (Id.)

This Law is the latest in a series of other legislative measures aimed at establishing new air travel procedures. In April 2013, the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation drafted a series of amendments to the Air Code which, if passed, would change the security procedures on board Russian air carriers. The proposed amendments are published on the Ministry’s website. They would allow crew members and air marshals to use tasers against violent passengers, handcuff them, and seize alcoholic beverages in the passengers’ possession. (Draft of the Law on Amendments to the Air Code of the Russian Federation in Regard to Implementation of International Standards of Air Security [in Russian], Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, (Apr. 23, 2013).)

Under the April 13 proposed amendments, after acquiring special training crew members would be allowed to apply physical force and “special means” against those who attempt to attack them, disturb their normal work, seek to damage airplane equipment, or attempt to enter the cockpit. The list of special equipment that must be kept on board would be defined by the Russian government. The proposed legislation states that “in case of emergency, crew members can use any appropriate means found at hand on board.” (Id.) Under new rules contained in the draft law, an airline could decide to declare particular flights alcohol-free and seize all alcohol purchased by passengers before the flight. These purchases would be returned to the passengers after landing. (Id.) These amendments are supported by the Russian national air carrier Aeroflot. (Aeroflot’s Opinion on Amendments to the Russian Air Code [in Russian], TRANSPORTSECURITY.RU (last visited June 25, 2013).)

This additional new draft legislation was introduced in response to the increased number of accidents that have resulted when drunken passengers on board Russian airliners misbehaved and attacked flight attendants and fellow passengers. In the last four years, two Russian major air carriers reported more than 2,000 accidents on board their airplanes. (Iuliia Krivoshapko, Letet Smirno [To Fly Quietly], ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA (Apr. 25, 2013).) Another proposal recently introduced in the State Duma provides for placing video recording equipment inside the airplanes and using the recordings for the prosecution of violent passengers. (Bill No. 221543-6 on Amending Article 36 of the Russian Federation Air Code [in Russian], State Duma of the Russian Federation website (last visited June 25, 2013).)