Travel safety

Passengers share the responsibility to ensure flight safety
     Safety is the lifeblood of the airline industry, and is mutually dependent on the safety of the nation, the people’s lives and property as well as on social stability and international cooperation. Therefore, not only is safety the responsibility of the airlines, air traffic control (ATC), airports, and safety inspection staff, but also the responsibility of each and every passenger.

    On March 12th of this year, a flight in Shenyang was leaving for Pudong. The cabin door was closed, but there was a passenger who kept using his cell-phone. The flight attendant and the safety inspector reminded him and warned him numerous times, that “mobile phone and remote control electronic devices interfere with the proper operation of the plane’s communication and navigation systems and seriously threaten flight safety.” However, the passenger kept talking through the safety announcement and demonstration, and as the plane prepared to taxi to the runway, he was still talking on his phone. Once more, the safety inspector insisted that the passenger hang up, but was ignored. Left with no choice, the safety inspector forcibly took custody of the cell phone. At this moment, the passenger began to attack the officer, punching and kicking him. In accordance with flight safety rules, the captain immediately notified the airport police, who subsequently took him away for questioning.

    Forcibly taking the passenger’s cellphone in order to turn it off was necessary in order to ensure flight safety. Moreover, this action is permissible under existing regulations. The Order of the Public Security Bureau of Civil Aviation Administration of China (No.174) provides that: “Those who disregard the regulations and use wireless electronic devices such as a mobile phone and refuse abide by the flight crew’s instructions, will have their device provisionally be taken into the custody of the crew”; and that: “Any passenger who refuses to abide by regulations and causes a disturbance will, in accordance with the law, be detained by airport police. Additionally, this passenger will be held responsible for any flight delays or damage caused.” In the incident described above, the crew acted in order to ensure flight safety, but the passenger’s unfortunate attitude and inappropriate behavior not only harmed a crew member, but also caused the flight to be delayed for more than two hours. This delay caused irrevocable losses to the over 130 passengers on board, causing their indignation and protest. The unruly passenger was also prohibited from flying and was punished in accordance with the law.

    Clearly, passengers share responsibility for ensuring the safety and timeliness of flights. Therefore, they should always be conscious of safety, be civic minded, show good decorum, avoid situations like the one described previously. Additionally, by cooperating with the flight crew and relevant authorities passengers not only contribute to safety, but also help safeguard the country as well as their own lives and property.

Passengers must fasten their safety belts before the plane takes off
    The purpose of fastening safety belts before take off is to keep air passengers safe. Airplanes must reach high speeds in order leave the ground and a high pitch in order to climb. Also, at low altitudes clouds and wind can make the plane difficult to pilot resulting in frequent bumps and shaking. In order to prevent accidental injury, passengers are required to fasten their safety belts before the plane takes off and they must remain fastened during ascent in case the plane encounters turbulence. Similarly, seatbelts must be fastened during descent and landing. In April 1993, a U.S.-bound MD-11 airplane encountered strong turbulence while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Because of the turbulence, the passengers who hadn’t fastened their safety belts were thrown from their seats and were seriously injured. Meanwhile those passengers with fastened safety belts remained safe and sound. Therefore, it’s best to obey instructions when the fasten safety belt sign is turned on.

Legal regulations prohibiting the in-flight use of mobile phones
    According international practice and national stipulations, the CAAC has drafted regulations restricting the use of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices on aircraft. The regulations will be submitted to the State Council for approval and then issued and implemented as administrative statute. The new regulations will further improve legislation and strengthen penalties.

    According to Article 88 of Civil Aviation Law of the People’s Republic of China, “No radio or other device that may interfere with the normal operation of civil aviation special radio frequencies shall be used.” According to Article 116 of Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China, Part Two, Chapter II Crimes of Endangering Public Security, “Anyone attempting to sabotage the normal operation of a train, motor vehicle, tram, ship or aircraft will face a term of imprisonment of no less than three years and no more than 10 years.” According to Article 119, “Anyone who sabotages the intended function of any transport vehicle or facility, power or gas facility, or explosive device that causes significant damage or harm, shall be imprisoned for 10 years to life or will receive a sentence of death.” Therefore, because the use of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices on airplanes can possibly cause a plane accident, doing so shall be regarded as an illegal act and a crime endangering public security.

    Therefore, we would like to remind passengers again, that for your life and safety and those of your fellow passengers, the use of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices on the plane is prohibited. Solely considering one’s self-interest and convenience may result in harm to others and to society, unnecessary trouble for you and your family, and substantial financial and criminal culpability.

Passengers should assume responsibility for their own safety
    When passengers travel by plane, it is the duty and obligation of the airline company to ensure that passengers arrive at their destination safely, on time and in good order. However, while airlines must perpetually work to guarantee passenger safety and satisfaction, they also depend on the cooperation of their passengers. On February 3rd, there occurred an incident at Hefei airport where a passenger recklessly opened the emergency window. Fortunately, there were no serious consequences due to the awareness and timely actions of the staff noticed.

    On that day, flight (MU5975) from Hefei to Haikou was operated by China Eastern Anhui Branch. While the passengers were still boarding, one passenger sitting next to an emergency exit opened the emergency window out of curiosity. Fortunately the attendant noticed, reported the incident to the captain, and the flight crew was able to close the window in time. If not, the flight would certainly have been delayed because of problems pressurizing the cabin.

    The MD90 plane used for this flight has eight emergency exits, each labeled Emergency Exit in bold red print, which are designed for use only in case of emergency. While safety instructions were provided in the seat back pockets for every passenger, those sitting in emergency exit rows were provided special Safety Instructions for Passenger near Emergency Exits cards. These instructions provide a detailed explanation of the proper use of emergency window in case of emergency. As standard practice, flight attendants will check the cabin after all passengers have boarded and will always confirm that passengers sitting near the emergency exits are able and willing to follow the proper emergency measures. If not, they will be reseated. In addition, after the plane begins to taxi, the attendants will always carry out a pre-flight safety demonstration that emphasizes the location and proper use of the emergency exits.

    As a passenger, ensuring personal safety should be the first priority at all times. The safe operation of the plane depends on the proper operation of each and every piece of equipment and facility onboard. Passengers must take special care to use those devices marked with bold red letters appropriately and carefully. Passengers are obliged to carefully read the Safety Instructions provided on the plane. Either in normal or emergency circumstances, passengers should always strictly abide by relevant on-flight regulations and follow the flight attendants’ instructions.

Do not use portable electronic devices such as mobile phones on plane
    In recent years, portable electronic devices, especially mobile phones, have become increasingly popular and are being brought more frequently onto aircraft. These devices do pose a threat to flight safety. Evidence shows that mobile phones and other portable electronic devices can generate electromagnetic radiation that interferes with the proper function of the plane’s navigation and autopilot systems. The risk is greatest during the takeoff and ascent, and the approach and landing phases of air travel. Since the aircraft is at a low altitude, any electromagnetic interference with navigation and communication systems could endanger normal flight operations and the lives of passengers. This problem has aroused wide concern among all circles of society.

    In 1991, shortly after a Boeing 767-300 plane that belonged to a British airline company took off from Bangkok, one computer on the plane unexpectedly activated the reverse thrust, which resulted in the deaths of all 233 people aboard. The accident investigation showed that it was electromagnetic interference from a notebook computer, portable video camera or mobile phone that caused the malfunction. An air disaster in Brazil in 1996 and another in Taiwan in 1998 were also due to the inappropriate use of mobile phones.

    In addition, there have also been situations where, although no serious accident was caused, the situation was potentially serious. On July 11, 1999, a flight was about to land at Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou, when the flight path suddenly deviated by eight degrees. As soon as the captain noticed this, he asked the flight attendants to check the cabin. It was found that four or five passengers were using their mobile phones. Only after the flight attendants stopped them, did the plane reassume its correct flight path. On January 8, 2000, shortly after a flight took off from Zhanjiang Airport, the captain noticed a significant difference between the aircraft compass reading and the actual flight path. The computer showed that the plane was off-course by 10 sea miles. The captain immediately instructed the attendants to check the cabin. They found that some passengers were using their mobile phones. On February 13, 2000, during an approach to the Zhengzhou Airport, the navigation signal became irregular and the plane couldn’t land normally because passengers were using handsets on the plane. The plane was able to land successfully only after passengers shut off these devices. In the above dangerous situations, serious consequences were likely avoided because of the proper actions taken by experienced flight crews.

    Therefore, based on existing international practice and real-life happenings in our country, the CAAC has proceeded to draw up regulations restricting the use of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices on aircraft.

The unauthorized tampering with life jackets is a breach of civil aviation law
    At 19:02 on March 20, 2000, on flight MU5360 from Guangzhou to Hangzhou, a passenger, prior to take off, unpacked and inflated a life jacket without permission. The passenger was also unwilling to accept the safety inspector’s reprimand and refused to exit the plane as instructed by airport police. To avoid escalating the situation and further delaying the flight, the Guangzhou police allowed the passenger to stay on this flight, preferring that the Hangzhou Airport police handle the situation. At 20:35, when flight MU5360 landed, the Hangzhou Airport Patrol Team of Civil Aviation Public Security Division immediately dispatched personnel to take the customer into custody. The investigation revealed that the passenger, named Wang Baohua (a 43 year old male from Anji County in Zhejiang Province), after boarding Flight MU5360 at 18:10 on March 20th, out of curiosity and without permission removed and inflated the life jacket that had been stored under his seat. Agitated and at the instigation of fellow passengers (over 30 in total), he rejected the criticism and instruction of the flight crew and further objected to the instructions of Baiyun Airport police of Guangzhou to deplane. The ensuing chaos in the cabin resulted in a 40-minute delay and other adverse effects.

    Wang Baohua’s behavior violated the provisions of Clause 4, Article 25 of Regulations on Civil Aviation Security of the People’s Republic of China, which states: The following acts – theft, deliberate damage to or unauthorized handling of life saving devices – are prohibited in an aircraft. He who commits such acts shall be punished in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Administrative Penalties for Public Security. Authorized by CAAC Public Security Bureau, police in Hangzhou punished Wang Baohua for his unlawful act, fined him 200 Yuan and ordered him to pay 680 Yuan for losses caused.

    Each aircraft life jacket is a single use device. If damaged, it may put a passenger’s personal safety at risk in an emergency. Passengers are strongly encouraged not to tamper with on board lifesaving devices without permission, in order to ensure their own safety and that of their fellow passengers.

Legal issues related to flight delays caused by unfavorable weather conditions
    Air transportation is a modern, efficient, convenient and time-saving mode of transportation. Compared with rail, automotive and other modes of transportation, air transport has the advantage of speed. However, if a scheduled flight is canceled or delayed, then the goal to reach the chosen destination faster is lost. With the rapid development of air transportation industry in our country, more and more people choose to travel by air for business or personal travel. At the same time, there are an increasing number of disputes between the airline company (the carrier) and passengers due to flight delays. Many passengers think that airline companies are obligated to get the passengers to their final destinations on time and that carriers should take full responsibility if, for any reason, the flight is delayed or canceled. There are numerous possible causes of flight delays, which are mainly divided into two categories. The first consists of causes attributable to the airline company, such as difficulties with aircraft allocation; the second consists of causes not attributable to the airline company, such as flight control operations, inclement weather, or employee strikes. Among the above numerous causes, the most common cause for flight delays is weather, which is often characterized by long delays, uncertain departure times, etc. Weather conditions that can lead to flight delays include thunderstorms, heavy fog, etc. How then should the legal liability between the airline company and its passengers be determined when bad weather causes a flight delay? The following is a legal opinion on the matter.

Which party shall bear responsibility for passenger losses due to delay? Who shall pay for the passenger food and lodging? How should passenger refund requests be handled?

    CWeather conditions are neither predictable nor controllable by airline companies, therefore both domestic and foreign legislation provides that the airline companies do not bear any responsibility for delays due to bad weather. Article 126 of the Civil Aviation Law of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as the Civil Aviation Law) provides that, “the carrier shall be liable for damage occasioned by delays in the transport by air of passengers, baggage or cargo; however, the carrier is not liable if staff or authorized agents have taken all necessary measures to avoid damages or if it is impossible to take such measures.” Corresponding provisions regarding this problem can also be found in the CAAC issued Rules of China on the Domestic Civil Air Transport of Passengers and Luggage (hereinafter referred to as Transportation Rules). Article 58 of Transportation Rules provides that, “in case of the delay or cancellation of a flight at the point of origin due to weather, emergency, air traffic control, security inspection, passenger and other reasons that are not attributable to the carrier, the carrier should assist the passengers in arrangement for meals and accommodation, the expense of which may be covered by the passengers themselves.”

How should the airline company handle passenger requests for a refund when the flight is delayed due to bad weather?

    Article 23 of Transportation Rules provides that, “In case of cancellation of a flight, a change in the flight time, a change of route, or inability to provide the booked seat, the airline company should refund the full ticket price without assessing refund fees at the airport of departure.” In accordance with this provision, the airline company should grant the passenger’s request for refund and should not charge for refund fees when bad weather condition causes a flight delay.

In addition to the above-mentioned weather related legal issues another cause, not directly related to transport, may cause flight delays. That is, sometimes grievances may be caused when a passenger is detained, or when the passenger quarrels or has a more significant altercation with staff of the airline. How are these problems handled appropriately?

    The relationship between an airline company and its passengers is based on the terms and conditions of the carriage contract. In the relationship, each party has equal status. Neither party has the right to demand that the other undertake acts other than those specified in the contract, nor may either violate the other party’s lawful rights and interests. The above-mentioned actions are not related to the air transportation contract and therefore are not applicable to Civil Aviation Law or Transportation Rules. Instead, these actions shall, based on the seriousness of the circumstances, be deemed applicable to the General Principles of the Civil Law, Regulations on Penalties for Public Security, Criminal Law or other laws and regulations. In other words, if the infraction is minor, and damages caused to airport facilities or airline company property is of minimal value, then the actor shall bear civil liability according to General Principles of the Civil Law. Where the action is directed towards an innocent third party (including airline staff) and causes injury or significant property damage, then the actor shall, based upon the extent of injury or the amount of damage, bear civil, administrative, or even criminal liability.

What measures should be taken to prevent such unpleasant situations from happening?

    A solution should as always be approached by first hearing the opinions of both parties. First, extensive explanation of relevant laws should be provided to enhance the passengers’ understanding, and passengers should be made aware of the legal obligations they bear as well as their rights when traveling by air. Passengers should not recklessly consider themselves infallible as is widely propagated in a society that regards the “customer as God”. Passengers should exercise their rights within the law; meanwhile they should also respect the airline company's rights and interests and should avoid acts where both parties are harmed. In addition, the airline company should strengthen legal knowledge of its employees, especially the Civil Aviation Law and other civil aviation related laws and relations, to raise overall legal awareness of employees. On the one hand, airlines have to strive within the limits prescribed by law through its own efforts to improve service quality, and to satisfy customers. On the other hand, in the event of flight delays due to weather, should assume their obligations in accordance with relevant laws and any unreasonable demands of individual passengers that cannot be accommodated should be refused. If a traveler violates a law or regulation, it should be dealt with by appropriate legal means.
    Of course raising the legal conscious citizens through dissemination of the law is a lengthy process. As a member of society of laws, a citizen should consider the legal consequences before taking action. We’d all love to see a harmonious scene of smiles and warmth and absent of violence or vulgarity in the waiting halls of China’s airports. Even when the weather is foggy, the passengers are in perfect order and the service of the airline company is warm and thoughtful. Through the combined efforts of all stakeholders, this moment won’t be far away. This circumstance is one that already exists in some developed countries. We look forward to the early arrival of this day.

Carrying Animals Onboard is a Violation of the Law
    As some passengers are still not familiar with air transportation safety regulations, many do arrive at the airport check in counter carrying birds, insects, pets, etc. Once security staffs become aware of the situation, the passenger is not permitted to board.

    A short time ago, while carrying out routine inspection of passengers, security inspectors discovered that a woman was carrying a calico cat, so they immediately stopped her. The woman passenger questioned why she was not allowed to board since the cat was not dangerous. After hearing the patient and persuasive explanation of the security staff, the passenger finally understood and was content to allow her family to take the cat back home.

    As a matter of fact, although small animals are not dangerous and do not pose an apparent threat to the safety of the plane, the plane is a special form of transportation that flies at high altitudes and due to safety concerns and limited space, prohibitive steps must be taken to maintain order in the cabin. If animals taken on flights get out of their owner’s control, they may cause panic in the cabin and disturb the normal order. Furthermore, if insects enter into the circuit system of the plane, they may cause mechanical failure, which would be a much more serious problem.

How does a mobile phone interfere with the navigation system?
    The types of equipment that interfere with the navigation system include devices that actively and passively emit electromagnetic signals. Active signal emitting equipment, such as mobile phones, has more significant affects. According to international standards, navigation systems operate at frequencies of 1,200 MHz, 110MHz, and 75Hz. Other devices should not be used at these frequencies. However, mobile phones do operate at frequencies that are close to those of navigation systems. For example GSM system channels operate at 800 MHz, CDMA at 900-1000MHz, and PCS at 1800 MHz. It is possible to alter mobile phones so that they operate at the same frequencies as onboard electronic equipment. This is very dangerous.

    Non-active signal emitting equipment such as notebook computers, electronic game consoles, video cameras, tape recorders, etc. can also interfere because they use high frequency clock oscillators. And compact disc players and CD-ROM devices, with their laser sensors can also generate transient voltage pulses that are strong enough to interfere with the electronic system underneath the cabin floor. More precisely, even when interfering electromagnetic signals are weak, they can still affect the navigation system if the user is sitting near the nose of the plane, or if there is nothing in front of the user to block off the signals.

    Therefore, we would like to advise all passengers to consider the lives and safety of all passengers and to be sure not to use mobile phones and other portable electronic devices on the plane. Thinking only of one’s own convenience may cause irreparable loss to others and to society, or may bring about unnecessary trouble to yourself and your family, or may result in fines or criminal prosecution.

Don’t bring articles onboard on the behalf of others
    Of all airline passengers there are some who violate civil aviation regulations by bringing items for others onboard.

    Before Spring Festival, one passenger planning to take a flight with Shanghai Airlines was entrusted by a stranger to bring a gray box to Guangzhou. Thinking of it as a simple gesture of kindness the passenger took it onto the plane without giving it much thought. After boarding, he felt uncertain since he didn’t know what was in the box. After explaining the situation to a flight attendant, he handed the item over to the crew. As a result the plane was detained for inspection. It turned out that the box contained a video tape.

    In recent years, Shenyang Taoxian International Airport has frequently had to seize items that passengers have brought onboard for others. Airport authorities explained that when passengers bring along items for others, no one knows what is inside. If the contents are hazardous, it would pose a serious threat to the plane and to passenger safety and well-being. Especially after the incidents of 9-11, civil aviation authorities tightened the safety requirements on passenger luggage and enhanced the intensity of inspection.

    In addition, the law does not permit passenger to carry luggage and or any articles for other people. Regulations on Civil Aviation Security of the People’s Republic of China and China Civil Aviation Law clearly prohibits the act of bringing any luggage or belongings of persons not holding plane tickets.

Common sense safety tips for passengers traveling by plane
    Don’t bring oversized luggage into the cabin; transport them as checked luggage.

    After boarding the plane, turn off your mobile phone and do not turn it on at any point during flight. This way signal from your phone will not to interfere with the navigation system.

    Store your luggage appropriately (either in the overhead luggage bins or under the seat in front of you). You may ask a flight attendant for help if necessary.

    After boarding, a safety video will be played. There is also a safety instruction book in the seat back pocket in front of you. Please read it carefully.

    In non-emergency situations, don’t tamper with the life jacket under your seat, the emergency exit handles, or the emergency evacuation windows.

    Before the plane takes off, please fasten your safety belt (if you are carrying a baby in your arms, don’t buckle your baby inside the belt), store your tray table and foot rest, and adjust your seat back to the full upright position.

    In the event of turbulence, remain in your seat with your safety belt fastened.

    If you notice anything out of the ordinary (such as smoke or a strange noise), report it to the flight attendant in a timely manner.

    In an emergency, don’t panic. Follow the instructions of the flight crew and ground support personnel, as they have all received extensive training and are prepared to ensure your safety.

    After landing, wait until the plane has finished taxiing and has come to a full and complete stop (i.e. when the safety belt indicator light is off) before standing up.

Carrying weapons onboard is strictly prohibited
    In the airport safety inspection area, the inspection staffs are responsible for inspecting passengers.

    A young man was passing through inspection when a sensor alarm sounded. The security inspectors told him that he was carrying contraband items. Knowing that he wasn’t carrying a gun, knife, or any type of weapon, the young man became confused, and wondered what contraband item he could be carrying. After inspection, it turned out that nail clippers had set off the alarm.

    Announcement on Civil Aviation Safety, (hereinafter referred to as the “Announcement”), which is jointly issued by the CAAC and the Ministry of Public Security, provides that: Passengers aboard civil aviation flights shall not carry knives; all knives seized shall be handed over to and temporarily held by Civil Aviation Security Inspection Department; those deliberately concealing knives shall be handed over to and handled by Civil Aviation Public Security. Sharp items like small scissors, fruit knives, etc. are also prohibited from being carried onboard; these items must be packed into checked luggage. At the same time the "Announcement" provides that: The following items are strictly prohibited from transported whether checked in with luggage or as cargo: simulated pistols, micro emitters, ammunition, weapons; police weapons, explosives, flammable and explosive materials and toxic, radioactive, corrosive articles, dangerous liquids and other contraband goods.

    Some passengers may regard the carrying of luggage or items belonging to others, the buying of tickets with invalid identification, the carrying animals onboard, playing practical jokes or using mobile phone while onboard, etc. as trivial actions. But it is often the seemingly "little" actions, that often lead to unexpected disasters that threaten passengers lives and safety. Only when each and every passenger fully abides by relevant civil aviation regulations, regardless of how “little”, can we ensure the safety of the plane and passengers’ lives and property.