The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has revealed that the number of disruptive passenger incidents reported in 2018 has remained stable despite the surge in overall passenger numbers. There were a total of 415 incidents reported in 2016, 417 in 2017 and a slight drop to 413 in 2018. Alongside this, between 2016 and 2018, the numbers of passengers departing from Britain’s airports grew by 8.9%.
The figures refer to any passenger incident threatening the safety of an aircraft, whether alcohol related or not. They include smoking in a plane toilet and aggressive behaviour toward cabin crew. The CAA’s data shows that 31% of the incidents in 2017 were explicitly linked to alcohol.
There are positive signs at both a national and local level. Glasgow Airport, for instance, reported a 52% decrease in outbound alcohol-related offences. At Heathrow Airport there was approximately one incident of alcohol-related disruptive behaviour per million departing passengers last year, according to police figures. 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 UK aviation industry takes disruptive behaviour very seriously, with penalties including being denied boarding, fines of up to £80,000 (US$105,000) 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’.
At the local level, individual airports are continuing to run their own awareness initiatives such as Manchester Airport Group (MAG)’s Security Ambassador initiative, which employs dedicated in-terminal ambassadors at London Stansted to remind passengers of their responsibilities and the rules around alcohol consumption. The scheme also provides a mechanism to report concerns to airport colleagues and police when appropriate. Following the success of the trial at London Stansted, the scheme is now being considered for roll-out across all MAG airports.
Francois Bourienne, chair of the UK Travel Retail Forum, commented, “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.”
Richard Stephenson, director at the CAA, said: “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 CAA calls on everyone to respect their fellow travellers and behave responsibly at all times.”