Let us start this article by stating Philippine Republic Act No. 9497, Chapter XI Sec. 81 clause 9 which says “Any person who, while on board an aircraft, interferes with a crewmember’s or flight attendant’s performance of their duties, assaults, intimidates, or threatens any crewmember or flight attendant, shall be subjected to imprisonment from one (1) year to three (3) years or a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (Php50,000.00) but not exceeding Five hundred thousand pesos (Php500,000.00), or both, as determined by the court;”
In commercial aviation, safety is paramount, especially after the 9/11 incident. Airlines have been implementing stricter security and safety measures especially on board the aircraft and if there are people to implement these security and safety measures, it's the flight crew; the pilots and the flight attendants.
The primary job of flight attendants is to ensure the safety and security of all passengers on board, and this does not only mean rescuing and evacuating them quickly during emergencies. This also includes the implementation of all safety instructions, regulations, rules, and procedures to ensure safety and security of every passenger throughout the flight.
There are times though that there are some passengers who do not know how to obey and respect their flight attendants especially when safety instructions are being carried out. Some tend to become unruly which may compromise the his or her safety, the safety of other passengers, and the crew as well. Some passengers may also not be too comfortable with such behavior especially at 40,000ft, hence, flight attendants are given the power to offload such passengers from the aircraft.
There are actually two types of offload.
Of course, flight attendants do not just offload at their pleasure, it has to be accompanied by a report submitted to their airline as to why they had to offload the passenger, hence, there must be a solid reason.
The most minor offense that could cause a passenger to be offloaded is defiance with a verbal attack on their cabin crew or other fellow passengers, especially if the cabin crew was carrying out safety procedures and instructions that time. Again, safety is paramount. In other words, a simple disobeyance of safety instructions and procedures could get one offloaded, so please always follow safety instructions. It's for your own good anyway.
If the situation escalates like there is physical contact or assault on the cabin crew, smoking in the cabin, tampering with safety equipment, and verbal threats like threats of having a bomb or any statement that's got to do with a bomb, the passenger will definitely be offloaded and may face arrest at the same time. Any life threatening statement and action will definitely get you arrested and offloaded at the same time.
There is a process in offloading the passenger. First, the cabin crew tries to handle the unruly passenger, practicing maximum tolerance. The cabin crew will try to make the passenger calm down and properly address the issue. If the issue is about defiance of safety procedures and instructions, the cabin crew will first talk to the passenger and state the reason why it is important to follow. If the passenger becomes too unruly that may go beyond the crew's control, the cabin crew reports to the lead crew or purser and they will try to address the situation by themselves. If the passenger cannot be controlled and may be deemed as a security or safety threat, the purser or lead cabin crew will report the situation to the captain and suggest that the passenger be offloaded. If the reason for offload is not a major issue and could be offloaded without an arrest, the captain approaches the passenger together with the flight crew informs him that he will need to be offloaded. The passenger will be escorted by the ground crew out the aircraft.
If the passenger resists to leave, airport police is then called in. If the action is a major concern like direct assault with physical contact, cracking bomb jokes, or any threat that can cause huge tension, an offload with arrest may be called-in.
The flight crew then creates a report to justify their decision of offloading the passenger. As for the passenger, he or she may face criminal charges under R.A. 9497 Chapter XI Sec. 81 Clause 9.
What if things happen during mid flight? Depending on the situation, the captain may then return back to the airport of origin or divert to a nearest airport if the action is a grave threat to the lives of other passengers and the crew. If not, the flight will continue until the destination but the passenger will be met by airport police where he or she will be arrested.
There is no automatic offloading, it will always depend on the discretion of the whole flight crew including the captain whether they are to offload the passenger or not.
Your flight attendants do not just serve you coffee or tea, they are actually the authority on board which you as passengers have to respect as all their actions, duties, and instructions are for your safety and security.
Offloading will not happen if we simply know how to follow all our cabin crew's safety instructions and procedures. From presenting your boarding pass to them to paying attention to the emergency exit row briefing to fastening your seatbelts to following the fasten seatbelt sign, etc., all these are for your own safety and the safety of others which you actually paid for. All their instructions are based on the the airline's own policies, manufacturer's instructions, a country's civil aviation laws, and international civil aviation regulations and standards.
Again your safety is paramount, and your cabin crew are there to ensure it. A Philippine law protects the cabin crew so they can freely perform all their duties as safety professionals aboard the aircraft as mandated by their airline company.