MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators accused a businessman on Friday of attempting to hijack a plane while drunk – the latest in a string of incidents that have prompted lawmakers to push for tougher measures against rowdy passengers.
Sergei Kabalov, a 54-year-old businessman from Saratov, started to behave violently while drunk on board a Kogalymavia airliner bound for Egypt last month, and tried to break into the cockpit. A criminal case was launched against him for attempted plane hijacking and assault, the Investigative Committee reported on Friday.
A YouTube video made by another passenger shows Kabalov punching one male passenger on the nose and striking a flight attendant. He also yelled that he was part of Russia’s intelligence services and threatened he “could kill anyone with two fingers.”
If charged and convicted, Kabalov faces 12 years in prison, although he has not been detained as he did not return from his vacation in Egypt on the scheduled date.
Kabalov’s case was one in a string of recent brawls caused by Russian airline passengers, which have prompted calls for a crackdown on on-board drinking.
According to a story to be published in The Moscow News next week, lawmakers and airlines are now seeking tougher legal measures they say are currently missing from Russia’s Air Code: raising fines, and creating an official blacklist of misbehaving passengers and banning in-flight alcohol.
State Duma Transport Committee member Vitaly Yefimov said deputies plan to introduce a bill banning passengers from carrying Duty Free alcohol on board, in a bid to head off violent behavior.
Lawmakers will also consider discuss the idea of creating a special branch of the transport police to accompany charter flights, Duma Defense Committee member Igor Barinov said.
Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, has been calling for legal measures to allow airlines to use special measures like plastic handcuffs to physically restrain disruptive passengers, and ban them from air transport in future. The airline’s security chief Oleg Petrila said on Friday that Russian legislation does not provide for firm sanctions against trouble-making passengers.
“Today our fines are really small: from 500 rubles ($16) to 5,000 ($166). While in Holland and Italy – 500 euro,” Petrila said during a round-table in the Public Chamber.
Aeroflot registered at least 490 violations of passenger conduct rules on its flights in 2012 alone.
In the wake of the crackdown, the Investigative Committee said on Friday it was also opening a case against another drunk passenger, Nikolai Komissarov, after he insulted crew members and police officials on board a Utair airlines plane in Kaliningrad on December 13. He faces up to two years of correctional labor if convicted.
Earlier this week a flight from Moscow to Thailand was forced to divert to Uzbekistan when a Russian attacked other passengers after drinking a bottle of liquor. In another incident, three teenagers were barred from boarding a plane at Ufa airport for rowdy behavior on the ground.