Hundreds of passengers have been arrested on suspicion of being drunk on a plane or at an airport in the last two years, figures reveal.
At least 273 people were held across the UK in 2017 and 2018, police statistics show. Cases include a drunk passenger accused of fighting with someone while on board a plane, and a man allegedly shouting and swearing at a pilot.
Alleged incidents at airports include a man brandishing a knife at customer services staff at Aberdeen Airport after he was refused travel, and a man punching an airside bar manager at Glasgow Airport as he would not serve him any more alcoholic drinks.
The figures come as the government considers scrapping round-the-clock drinking in airport bars by extending high street licensing laws, which would mean no alcohol before 10am.
Under current rules, drink sales beyond security gates at international airports in England and Wales are not regulated by these laws. The Home Office launched the review on November 1, with a three-month call for evidence. The sale and supply of alcohol at international airports in Northern Ireland and Scotland are outside the scope of the call for evidence as they are separately regulated under the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005.
A spokesman for Airlines UK, the trade association said: “The problem of disruptive behaviour has got progressively worse over a number of years, despite the best efforts of industry to tackle it. There is no evidence to suggest these incidents won’t persist without the active involvement of government.”
Figures obtained following freedom of information requests show 48 people were arrested on suspicion of being drunk on an aircraft in 2017, and 42 in 2018 to date.
Passengers convicted of being drunk on an aircraft can face a fine or up to two years’ imprisonment. For the police forces that gave information, a further 104 arrests were made relating to alleged drunkenness at airports in 2017, with 68 this year to date. The ages of those detained around the UK ranged from 17 to 61.
A government spokesperson said: “Most UK air passengers behave responsibly, but any disruptive or drunk behaviour is entirely unacceptable.
“There are already tough penalties for drunkenness on an aircraft – you can be imprisoned for up to two years or given an unlimited fine. Pilots also have the power to remove passengers from the plane if they are drunk and the safety of the aircraft or its passengers is threatened.
“We strongly support the use of these powers by the police, airlines and airports to tackle drunk and disorderly behaviour at our airports and on board the aircraft. The government is already working with both airports and airlines to identify further ways to tackle the problem of drunk and disorderly passengers as part of our new UK Aviation Strategy.”