Arrests for being drunk on flights and at UK airports have risen 50 per cent in a year

Rebecca Smith
Arrest figures were provided by 18 police forces with a major airport in their area
Arrest figures were provided by 18 police forces with a major airport in their area (Source: Getty)

The number of passengers arrested for being drunk at UK airports and on flights are up 50 per cent in a year.

According to a BBC Panorama investigation, a total of 387 people were arrested between February 2016 and February 2017, a rise of on 255 the previous year.

Panorama contacted all 20 police forces with a major UK airport on their patch, and 18 responded.

Labour peer Baroness Hayter is founding director of Alcohol Concern, and also vice chair of the all-party group on alcohol misuse. She told Panorama:

The way airports now work and the way they make their money is basically expecting passengers to spend a lot of money when they’re there and the biggest thing that happens as you go is alcohol.

They’re selling it in front of children, they’re selling it around licensing hours, they’re selling it without asking how much people have already drunk. They’re making it very, very readily available.

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Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators' Association, said the sale of alcohol per se wasn't the problem. "It's the misuse of it and drinking to excess and then behaving badly," she said. “I think what we are encouraging is that all of our lounge staff - if they are airport lounges, sometimes they’re airline lounges, they’re a mix of providers - but the point is they should be saying ‘drink responsibly’.”

The Home Office said in a statement: "We have received the House of Lords Select Committee’s report on the Licensing Act 2003, which includes a recommendation to revoke the airports exemption from the Licensing Act 2003.

“We are carefully considering all of the committee’s recommendations, and will respond in due course.”

In a separate survey commissioned by Panorama, Unite union surveyed 4,000 of its cabin crew members, with more than half saying they had either experienced or witnessed verbal, physical, or sexual abuse on board a UK flight, while one in five said they had been physically abused during a UK flight.

Last year, the aviation industry brought in a voluntary code of conduct on disruptive passengers, which most of the big airlines and airports signed up to. Noting that while disruptive behaviour remained rare, the industry said when it does happen, the impact can be "significant".

The code includes guidance for retailers to warn passengers not to consume duty-free purchases on the plane, and staff are advised not to sell alcohol to passengers who appear drunk. Airlines, airports, bars and retailers are told to report incidents of disruptive behaviour to the police and support any resulting police action.

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