UK air-rage incidents double.jpg

UK air-rage incidents double

IT HAS been reported that the number of incidents of so called ‘air rage’ on British aircraft has doubled since 2003.

Between March 2005 and March 2006, there were 1,359 reports of disruptive behaviour on flights, of which 56 were deemed to be ‘serious’, according to new government figures. This was twice the number of such cases in 2003/4 and six per cent higher than last year’s total.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ‘serious’ is defined as behaviour “actually threatening flight or personal safety, or which has the potential to do so if the situation escalates”. There were a further 1,303 ‘significant’ incidents defined as a “cause for concern, but not a major threat to the safety of the aircraft”. This was fewer than the previous 12 months (1,433 cases), but nearly twice the number in 2003/4.

Most incidents involved verbal abuse of cabin crew or passengers, domestic disputes or arguments over seat allocation and seat reclining. About a quarter involved passengers disobeying instructions from airline staff.

Smoking is the most common cause of trouble – 455 people were caught smoking in lavatories – and violence was involved on 142 occasions. These included cases in which people had to be physically restrained.

Disruptive passengers will pay

In all, eight planes had to be diverted between 2005 and 2006, three more than the previous year. Eighty per cent of culprits were male and more than a third of incidents were alcohol-related. A typical air rage incident took place recently when, after allegedly drinking a bottle of whisky, a Scottish holidaymaker threatened staff and passengers on a MyTravel flight from Fuerteventura to Glasgow.

The pilot was forced to land at Santiago de Compostela airport in northern Spain and the 167 passengers were put up in a 180 euros-a-night hotel before flying home the next day. The holidaymaker is now facing a 60,000 euro bill from the airline. More serious offences can carry a two-year prison sentence.

Commenting on the situation, Gillian Merron, the UK’s aviation minister said that, although the number of serious incidents had increased, she was pleased there had been an overall reduction in the number of air rage incidents in the past year. “Airlines have worked hard to ensure that disruptive incidents are kept to a minimum and more passengers are aware of the consequences of unruly behaviour,” she said.