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The UK Civil Aviation Authority has revealed that 413 passengers caused disruption on aircraft in 2018 – four less than the year before despite rising traffic demand.

The decline is a success of sorts as passenger numbers at UK airports have soared by 8.9% since 2016, but more clearly needs to be done to stop often intoxicated individuals from causing problems onboard aircraft.

The UK Government is currently reviewing responses to its consultation on Airside Alcohol Licensing at airports.

The CAA’s figures refer to any passenger incident threatening the safety of an aircraft, whether or not alcohol related.

They count things like a passenger caught smoking in a plane toilet, whether drunk or not, and would capture aggressive behaviour toward cabin crew as a result of drugs or general frustration.

The CAA’s data shows that only 31% of the incidents in 2017 were explicitly linked to alcohol.


It claims that there are positive signs at both a national and local level with Glasgow Airport, for instance, reporting a 52% decrease in outbound alcohol-related offenders.

At Heathrow Airport, there was approximately one incident of alcohol-related disruptive behaviour per million departing passengers last year, according to police figures.

While at Manchester Airport, 2018 saw a 23% reduction in incidents of disruptive behaviour according to Greater Manchester Police figures, and at Birmingham Airport alcohol-related disruptive incidents were down 20% for outbound passengers when comparing the second half of 2018 against the second half of 2017.

The aviation industry has always taken the rare occurrence of disruptive passengers extremely seriously with penalties including being denied boarding, fines of up to £80,000 or jail for the most serious offences.

Passengers were reminded of this in 2018 as the aviation industry’s major trade associations representing travel retailers, airlines and airports, joined forces in a government-backed public awareness campaign entitled ‘One Too Many’.

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The campaign first launched in July for a ten-week run with ten pilot airports on board including Manchester, Gatwick and Glasgow.

Due to its success, the campaign returned for a further ten weeks in December with a redesigned Winter campaign and a further four airports on board including Heathrow, Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The industry, says the CAA, is committed to building upon the campaign and furthering other initiatives to eliminate the issue.

At a local level, individual airports are continuing to run their own awareness initiatives such as Manchester Airport Group’s (MAG) Security Ambassador initiative, which employs dedicated in-terminal ambassadors at London Stansted to remind passengers of their responsibilities and rules around alcohol consumption.

The scheme also provides a mechanism to report concerns to airport colleagues, and police where appropriate. Following the success of the trial at London Stansted the scheme is now being considered for rollout across all MAG airports.

Francois Bourienne, chair of the UK Travel Retail Forum, comments: “We are all pleased to see that the number of disruptive passengers is coming down as overall passenger numbers continue to climb at record rates.

“These numbers reflect the proactive and sustained work of retailers, airports and willing airlines to raise passenger awareness of the need to fly responsibly, and we will be continuing this work in earnest in 2019 and beyond.

“These numbers speak for themselves and should be recognised by the Government alongside responses to the Consultation on Airside Alcohol Licensing.”

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Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s regional vice president for Europe, says: “Airlines have always made use of existing laws and best practices to deter unruly passenger incidents.

“We hope that the industry’s information campaign is helping to increase public understanding of the serious consequences of disruptive behaviour in an airport or onboard a flight. We will continue to work with our partners to stop this unacceptable behaviour.”

While Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, notes: “The figures released by the CAA today reflect the work undertaken by airports, retailers and airlines throughout 2018 to enhance the public’s awareness of the consequences of disruptive or disorderly behaviour.

“Staff and passengers deserve to fly without disruption and we look forward to working together as an industry to build on the success so far in preventing disruptive passenger incidents from occurring.”

CAA director, Richard Stephenson, says: “The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been working with the industry to lower the number of disruptive passengers incidents in airports and on flights.

“We welcome all efforts to reduce these incidents and encourage the industry to continue to work together to tackle this issue.

“Every passenger expects their flight to be enjoyable and trouble-free. Disruptive behaviour is totally unacceptable and can lead to prosecution, a fine, or a prison sentence of up to five years. 

“The Civil Aviation Authority calls on everyone to respect their fellow travellers and behave responsibly at all times.”


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