Mandatory incident reports about disruptive passengers from UK airlines, 2013-2017 and up to mid-July 2018 (source: CAA)

UK. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has called for more criminal charges to be brought against disruptive passengers who have been drinking alcohol.

The move comes as the authority revealed new figures this week showing it had received more than 200 incident reports about disruptive passengers from UK airlines in 2018 (from January to 16 July) – before the busy summer flying season had started (source: CAA’s Mandatory Occurrence Reporting database).

The 2018 figures are in line with recent years, which have seen over 400 incidents reported since 2016. This is a sharp increase on earlier years (see chart). The CAA noted that “many incidents involved acts of violent and intimidating behaviour”.

The figures have been released amid a debate about the best way to curb drunken behaviour in airports and on aircraft between representative bodies for the duty free and travel retail industry and non-governmental groups active in reducing alcohol-related harm across Europe.

CAA Director Richard Stephenson: “Criminal charges should be brought against offenders more often to act as a deterrent.”

A key point is whether or not to extend existing UK licensing legislation airside – which would affect all F&B outlets serving alcohol, and possibly also impact on duty free stores.

As reported, the ETRC and UKTRF were critical of a report this week from the Institute of Alcohol Studies about disruptive air passengers; the travel retail associations rejected the study as sensationalised and inaccurate.

Make better use of laws already in place’

The CAA’s position is that airlines and enforcement agencies should “make better use of laws already in place” to bring more prosecutions against disruptive passengers.

CAA Director Richard Stephenson said: “Everyone wants their holiday flights to be enjoyable and trouble-free. Drunken and abusive behaviour on an aeroplane is totally unacceptable. It can jeopardise flight safety. Criminal charges should be brought against offenders more often to act as a deterrent – passengers need to know they will face the full weight of the law should they be found guilty of disorderly behaviour.”

Offenders can be jailed for up to five years for endangering the safety of an aircraft. They can also be charged with specific offences of being drunk on board an aircraft and for acting in a disruptive manner. Smoking and failing to obey the commands of the captain are also against the law and can be punished by a fine or imprisonment.