Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 11:27 UK

Disruptive air passengers concern

Naomi Campbell leaving Heathrow police station
Naomi Campbell admitted assaulting two police officers on a plane

Reported incidents of disruption involving air passengers have more than trebled in the last five years, official figures show.

There were 2,219 instances of violent, abusive or unacceptable behaviour between April 2006 and March 2007, compared to 648 incidents in 2002/3.

Civil Aviation Authority figures showed that alcohol was a factor in 34% of cases, and smoking in 25%.

Pilots' association Balpa said members were "very concerned" about the issue.

Balpa spokesman Keith Bill told the BBC News website: "There has been an increase in incidents, although they are still a rare occurrence.

"Pilots are obviously concerned because it's their safety and that of their passengers at stake."

'Secret' smoking

There were 58 serious incidents in 2006/7 compared to 35 in 2002/3.

"Serious incidents" are defined by the Department for Transport as those which threaten either personal safety or flight safety or have the potential to do so.

Figures from the CAA also showed there were 601 serious or "significant" incidents in the first three months of this year, up 32% on the 458 cases recorded in the same period in 2007.

Where there is an air rage incident and the perpetrator is found guilty, we want the courts to be very, very tough
Keith Bill, Balpa

A "significant incident" is one which causes concern, but does not present a major threat to aircraft safety.

Reported assaults on cabin crew also rose from nine in the first quarter of 2007 to 18 in the first quarter of this year.

Of the incidents in 2006/7:

  • 39% involved verbal abuse towards cabin crew or other passengers
  • 8% involved violence - the lowest proportion seen in the last five years
  • 25% involved smoking - mostly passengers caught trying to smoke secretly in aircraft toilets
  • Alcohol was identified or suspected of being a factor in 34% of cases. Of those, about 29% involved passengers drinking their own alcohol and 23% stemmed from drinking before boarding

Of the 58 serious cases of violence or abuse in 2006/7, many were directed towards a family member or partner and in some cases restraints were used and aircraft diverted.

Mr Bill said some pilots were worried that delays to flights were giving passengers greater opportunity to drink.

"If the cabin crew sees anyone who is clearly drunk they just don't let them on board," he said.

"But, of course, what is there to do when you're waiting for an aircraft? There's drink available - so some people arrive having had a drink and then have more on board.

"Where there is an air rage incident and the perpetrator is found guilty, we want the courts to be very, very tough and impose a term of imprisonment, not a fine, as a deterrent."

Women arrested

A spokesman for the CAA said the increase in incidents was partly due to greater reporting.

"Greater awareness of the issue of disruptive passengers, combined with zero-tolerance policies in dealing with them, has seen an improvement in reporting of incidents, supported by the CAA's introduction of more rigorous reporting standards," he said.

Statistics show that men in their 30s are the main offenders, but 25% of incidents involve women.

Last month, two British women were arrested by German police after trying to open a cabin door mid-flight.

An airline spokeswoman claimed the women had been drinking heavily and were abusive towards cabin crew on their flight from the Greek island of Kos to Manchester. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Frankfurt.

In June, supermodel Naomi Campbell was sentenced to 200 hours community service after pleading guilty to assaulting two police officers on board a plane at Heathrow Airport.

Entertainer jailed for air rage
30 Jun 08 |  Northern Ireland

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