“Passengers need to know they will face the full weight of the law should they be found guilty of disorderly behaviour.”
The head of the UK civil aviation regulator has called for urgent action to be taken by authorities to stop alcohol-fuelled violence and intimidating behaviour on planes, a worsening trend that ‘jeopardises the safety of flights and passengers’. Figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) show that reported incidents involving alcohol have got significantly worse over the last three years, with a 112% jump between 2015 and 2016 – rising from 195 incidents to 415.
The latest set of figures also showed that 202 incidents had already taken place this year, even before the busiest flying season has finished when the CAA predicts more will take place. There were 93 reported incidents in 2013.
The appeal from the CAA has been joined by a major study that revealed more than half (51%) believed there was a serious problem with excessive alcohol consumption on flights today. Compiled by the Institute of Alcohol Studies and the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, the Fit to Fly report found that 24% of UK adults drink at the airport, but it appeared to show that the vast majority were doing so in moderation: only 2% of those polled said they had more than four alcoholic drinks.
Richard Stephenson, director of the CAA said that although existing regulations were in place they should be used more often to convince others that drunken and abusive behaviour on planes “is totally unacceptable” and jeopardises safety. “Criminal charges should be brought against offenders more often to act as a deterrent,” said Stephenson. “Passengers need to know they will face the full weight of the law should they be found guilty of disorderly behaviour.”
The following five offences are listed in the CAA’s Air Navigation Order and can be later used by UK courts to bring criminal charges:
- endangering safety of an aircraft;
- drunkenness in aircraft;
- smoking in aircraft;
- authority of pilot in command of an aircraft;
- acting in a disruptive manner.
In July, a separate survey carried out on around 2,000 people by the UK-based market research company, YouGov, showed there was broad support for more stringent drinking regulations at airports. More than three-quarters (86%) said shops and bars should be subject to the same regulations found on UK high streets; currently, airports aren’t bound by the Licensing Act 2003 that places restrictions on the time of day when alcohol can be served. 74% supported the restriction of alcohol consumption at airports to bars and restaurants only, meaning that alcohol bought at duty free cannot be consumed in the airport. A copy of the Fit to Fly report can be downloaded here.
Jennifer Keen, Head of Policy at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said the government needed to do more protect passengers. “There is no clear reason why shops and bars in airports should be exempted from normal licensing rules when drunk people in the air are a much bigger safety risk to others than drunk people in the high street.”
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