Hugh Morris, The Daily Telegraph, August 14, 2017
The number of passengers arrested for drunken behaviour on British flights or at UK airports has soared by half in just a year, prompting calls for tough new penalties to curb a rise in “air rage”.
A total of 387 people were arrested by police at a British airport in the last 12 months, up 50 per cent on the previous year, according to figures obtained by the BBC’s Panorama.
The surge in the number of incidents comes a year after police, airlines and airports announced a crackdown on disruptive behaviour relating to alcohol. One industry source told the Telegraph that airports during busy holiday period were akin to the “Wild West” as fliers took advantage of early morning opening hours at airport bars.
The worst routes for drunken passengers
- Alicante, Spain
- Ibiza, Spain
- Palma, Majorca, Spain
Ibiza is among the worst routes for trouble, according to cabin crewCredit: jarcosa - Fotolia/Jose Arcos Aguilar
Boarding planes with alcohol purchased in duty free is also said to be behind the rise in the number of arrests. Cabin crew told Panorama that they found “countless litre bottles of vodka” on planes as well as Jägermeister, Bacardi rum and gin.
“The worst routes I would say are Alicante, Ibiza, Palma,” one told the programme, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I know other colleagues who have been punched, kicked, one of them was head-butted by a passenger.
“Obviously we don’t want to stop anyone from having a good time but we want people to be mindful that they’re on an aircraft and it’s not a bar. It’s not a nightclub.”
Alexandra Wilms from the Balearic Ministry of Tourism, representing islands popular with British tourists, said “high fines” were needed to deter drunken behaviour.
“There must be high fines because at the end these kinds of people don’t understand any other thing than really getting punished by paying a lot of money,” she said.
Baroness Mcintosh, chair of the committee that helped introduced the voluntary Code of Practice last year, said it was not working and called on the Government to act.
“It doesn’t make any sense at all, we didn’t hear one shred of evidence to show that the voluntary code was either working now or had any possible vestigate of success in working any time soon,” she said.
“Meanwhile the incidents of air rage go up daily. I would urge, on behalf of the [House of Lords select] committee, the Home Office to really, really take this problem seriously.”
Panorama also found that more than half of cabin crew members have experienced or witnessed verbal, physical or sexual abuse on board a UK flight, while one in five said they had been physically abused.
“People just see us as barmaids in the sky,” said Ally Murphy, a former cabin crew manager with Virgin, “I was pulled into an upper-class bed by a passenger who was feeling particularly lucky I guess.
“They would touch your breasts, or they’d touch your bum or your legs, or I mean I’ve had hands going up my skirt before. It’s rage inducing, and you shouldn’t have to deal with that.”
Another cabin crew member, who did not want to be named, said: “I’ve been cornered in the back galley by somebody trying to kiss me and making sexual moves on me, having to push them away. It can go from anything from banter to sexual assault really.”
Duty free shops typically stock vast quantities of alcoholic drinksCredit: Getty
Jet2 is the only UK airline to cease selling alcohol on early morning flights in a bid to reduce alcohol-related disruption. In the year running up to its introduction last August, the airline had refused boarding to more than 500 passengers because of disruptive passengers and issued more than 50 lifetime bans.
The airline’s managing director, Phil Ward, told Panorama: “I think [the airports] could do more. I think the retailers could do more as well.
“Two-litre steins of beer in bars, mixers and miniatures in duty-free shops, which can only be there for one reason. You know, they’re items that are not sold on the high street.”
However, Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators’ Association, said it was not the sale of the alcohol that was the problem.
“I don’t accept that the airports don’t sell alcohol responsibly,” she said. “It’s the misuse of it and drinking to excess and then behaving badly”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said it was considering the recommendations of the House of Lords select committee’s report on the Licensing Act 2003. A Government response is expected in the autumn.