Drunk Airport Passenger Arrests Are Up 50 Percent in the UK

A new Panorama investigation reveals a huge rise in the number of drunk passengers arrested at British airports and on flights in the last year.

by Daisy Meager
14 August 2017, 2:57pm

Photo via Sam Howzitt.

Pre-flight booze is as integral to the airport experience as praying to the EasyJet gods when asked to stuff your bulging carry-on in the metal sizing cage or checking the location of your flimsy boarding pass print-out every two minutes. Once you've dropped £30 on tiny shampoo bottles and bought your Boots Meal Deal, alcohol is next on the list. Those 6 AM Stellas at the airport Spoons are swiftly chased with a G&Ts on the plane, and culminate in a hangover before you even touch down.

But a new survey into airline passenger drinking suggests that the distinctly British pastime of airport boozing causes more damage than just holiday hangovers. According to figures from a new BBC Panorama investigation, the number of drunk passengers arrested at UK airports and on flights has risen by 50 percent in the last year. Data from police forces with a major airport in their area shows that between February 2016 and February 2017, 387 people were arrested, compared to 255 the year before.

The rise comes despite major airlines introducing a code of conduct to curb drunken behaviour last July. The UK Aviation Industry Code of Practice on Disruptive Passengers includes refusing the sale of alcohol to those who appear intoxicated and advising customers not to consume booze purchased in duty free while in the air.

But it doesn't seem to be working. In conjunction with the Panorama report, trade union body Unite has released results of a survey into the drunken and anti-social behaviour reported by cabin crew staff working for British-based airlines. It found that 87 percent of the 4,000 cabin crew surveyed had seen inebriated passengers at UK airports or on flights from the UK. Seventy-eight percent of crew who reported witnessing disruptive incidents said that they had occurred since last July, when the code of conduct was implemented.

The antics of unruly passengers who've had one too many Chardonnays before take-off are well documented. There was the woman who tried to open the plane door while cruising over the Atlantic and who can forget the rowdy stag party member who was fined for harassing staff and urinating everywhere except the plane's toilet? And despite the proactive attitude of one passenger who chose to drink an entire bottle of Cognac rather than hand it over to security, things didn't end well. She had to be collected from the airport by her family.

It's unsurprising then, that last year's code of conduct wasn't the first attempt by airlines to stop passengers getting wasted before boarding. In 2015, some major UK airports forced customers to keep booze bought in duty free inside sealed bags and last year, an Indian airline imposed a two drink limit on passengers in airport lounges.

For now though, another quick one before the gate is announced?