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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK


Spotlight on air rage

Nervousness, tiredness and smoking bans 'contribute to the problem'

UK airlines have begun to log all new cases of so-called air rage amid growing concern that passenger anger and violence is increasing.

The BBC's Simon Montague: "Airlines say alcohol is not the main cause of trouble"
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has asked all UK passenger airlines to supply it with details of all cases, following a number of high-profile incidents.

On Wednesday, a man who attacked passengers aboard a British Airways jumbo jet, after drinking three double whiskies and taking Valium, was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

The CAA's Captain Mike Vivian: "The problem often starts before the passenger boards the plane"
And at the beginning of the year, a charter flight to the Caribbean was diverted to the United States to offload a dozen passengers who had been accused of causing trouble.

Database of incidents

The CAA hopes to build up a database of incidents, assess the extent of air rage and identify possible solutions.

In the past, only details of incidents which endangered flights were logged, and the CAA says it wants to build up a "wider picture".

[ image: All UK passenger airlines will be asked to register incidents]
All UK passenger airlines will be asked to register incidents
A steering committee, formed from the CAA, the ACPO policing body and major airlines, will study the results and then submit its findings and recommendations to Transport Minister John Reid.

Mr Reid has already promised to do all he can to combat what he calls the "growing threat" of air rage.

He has outlined a series of government proposals, including making it a specific offence for passengers to interfere with air crew going about their duties, and international action to ensure all countries have laws enabling offenders to be dealt with on arrival.

Police at major airports are drawing up plans for tackling disruptive passengers and crime in the air.

Alcohol 'not main cause'

The CAA's head of flight operations, Captain Mike Vivian, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that on-air violence often builds up before passengers even board the plane.

Alcohol, stress, anxiety and on-board smoking bans are among the known causes, he said - and air transport companies are already taking steps to limit stress triggers such as delayed flights.

Captain Vivian insisted that a ban on alcohol is not the answer to the air rage problem.

Contrary to popular belief, he said, alcohol is not the major cause of on-air disruption - accounting for only 25% of incidents.

He added that the percentage of unruly passengers is still tiny - last year UK airlines carried 85 million passengers, while only 100 individuals caused trouble, he said.

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