Sydney: Hoaxers who claim a bomb is onboard a plane or passengers who attack flight crew could be jailed for 10 years under tough new Australian laws announced on Monday.
The proposed changes will increase the maximum penalty for hoaxes from two years` imprisonment to 10, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O`Connor said.
"The measures I`m putting forward mean aviation-related crimes, including air rage against flight crew, threats against airports and endangering an aircraft, will carry more severe penalties," O`Connor said.
The government said hoaxes caused great distress and inconvenience to passengers and imposed unnecessary costs on the industry.
"Threats and hoaxes can compromise public safety (where) we have a situation where a flight might be diverted at short notice and that can cause potential mayhem," O`Connor added.
Under the plans, people who call an airline and claim there is a bomb on a plane or at an airport could be jailed for 10 years. Anyone who assaults a member of aircraft crew will face a similar sentence.
Damaging a runway or an aeroplane could result in a maximum 14-year sentence.
Attacking a pilot or otherwise endangering an aircraft in flight will mean up to 20 years` prison, while hijacking or destroying a plane could be punished with a life sentence.
"Australian aviation security agencies face tough challenges and must be supported with up-to-date laws and penalties that reflect the seriousness of these crimes," O`Connor said.
In February, the government committed to introducing full body scans for airline passengers as part of upgraded security measures announced in the wake of a failed attempt to bring down a US-bound plane on December 25.