QANTAS: Passenger banned for seven years after touching incident on London to Singapore on 3 November 2023 flight
Qantas has banned a 64-year-old passenger from flying on Qantas Group, including Jetstar services, for seven years. This is a consequence of a touching incident that occurred between London and Singapore on 3 November 2023.
Upon arrival in Singapore, the onboard incident resulted in the Singapore Police investigating an ‘outrage of modesty’ offence.
The ban includes code-share flights with Emirates, purchasing any flight on a Qantas-issued ticket, and using his frequent flyer status to enter any Qantas lounge or as a guest of any passenger. The suspension runs through to November 2030.
I’m not going to try to tease out the truth or otherwise of the situation since I am not a detective, a judge, or a member of a jury. What I will report is the accusation.
The allegation is that the gentleman in a window seat encroached on the woman’s space, occupying the middle seat. However, they had been chatting before the flight. Further information provided by Qantas detailed that the offender had:
‘leaned in and placed his hand between the woman’s arm and breast during take-off and touched her inner thigh. After she moved to another seat, he had moved to the centre seat and made “unwarranted conversation” with the passenger on the aisle seat, and ordered drinks for her despite being told she was going to sleep.’SMH
The alleged offender nodded off, and when he awoke, the woman in the middle seat had gone. Apparently she was reseated elsewhere on the plane by the crew. Later, the woman on the aisle seat was moved too. Again, apparently, the alleged offender had moved to the vacant middle seat, engaged in ‘unwarranted conversation’ with the female aisle passenger and ordered unwelcome drinks for her.
The alleged offender has denied some of these allegations, and has expressed displeasure at Qantas’ lack of enquiry into his side of the story. His appeal was denied by Qantas on Thursday 25 January.
Can Qantas do this?
Yes, it can. Qantas has considerable discretion when it comes to the privileges it awards to its customers. Some previous examples include the 2022 12-month ban on a rugby player who abused a flight attendant and the lifetime ban on a man who ‘meringued’ the face of Alan Joyce over the former CEO’s support of gay marriage. Qantas maintains an internal panel that metes out the ban terms and lengths.
Presuming that the Qantas account of the incident is largely true and the offender’s defence is not, I wholly support the airline’s action on this matter. Passengers, male or female of whatever age should be able to feel safe on an aircraft. Cabin crew have some powers to make sure passengers are safe, and training in how to achieve this.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these powers must not be abused by staff or airline management, and there are examples of that, although fortunately, not many in Australia.
I feel comfort in knowing that cabin staff will take action where inappropriate behaviour affects the well-being of passengers. Withdrawing flying privileges is the right penalty when a criminal case might be inappropriate, or difficult to pursue legally due to the jurisdictional complexities that travel in the air provides.