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Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK

UK Politics

Crackdown on air rage

UK airlines report a huge increase in air rage cases

Disruptive airline passengers will face up to two years in jail or a £2,000 fine under a new UK law designed to combat air rage.

The BBC's Alistair Jackson: "A catch all charge which will give airlines greater powers"
The new offence will specifically cover interfering with members of the crew on an aircraft. It is due to be announced on Thursday by the Transport Minister, Helen Liddell.

The minister told the BBC: "We've listened to the airlines, we've talked to the professionals in relation to this and I think everyone is well aware there has been an increase in these incidents - there have been some pretty awful ones comparatively recently.

[ image: The law would cover anyone disrupting staff]
The law would cover anyone disrupting staff
"We believe now that we're putting in place the kind of framework that should act not just to act as a threat to those who would consider behaving in such an obnoxious manner on board planes but also to give a degree a safety to air crew.

"It is one of the terrible indictments of our modern times that these incidents are happening with ever more frequency."

Being drunk on an aircraft, smoking in the toilet, and using a mobile phone during a flight are already punishable by up to two years' imprisonment and a fine of £5,000.

Helen Liddell: "We're putting in place the kind of framework that should act not just to act as a threat"
Mrs Liddell said the government would take on board people behaving in such an appalling manner were putting people's lives at risk.

She continued: "Nobody is saying nobody should ever drink on an aeroplane, it's a nice start to a holiday to put the cares of the world behind you, but some people, sadly, take it to excess and refuse to accept the instructions of cabin crew to behave themselves."

UK airlines report a 400% increase in air rage cases in the past three years.

[ image: Fiona Weir needed 18 stitches after she was attacked]
Fiona Weir needed 18 stitches after she was attacked
They have been calling for a new offence to cover passengers who do not directly affect the safety of an aircraft or cause criminal damage, but disrupt staff.

This would include drunkenness, smoking, or other anti-social behaviour.

The idea of a new "air rage" law was first mooted in November last year, by the then Transport Minister John Reid, following an attack on an air stewardess.

The BBC's Tim Franks: "People believe they can behave how they like on holiday - this shows they can't"
Fiona Weir, 32, needed 18 stitches after being hit over the head, arms and neck with a broken vodka bottle on a flight from London to Malaga.

Since then, there have been several other high-profile cases.

Last week, Neil Whitehouse, 28, was jailed for a year after refusing to switch off a mobile phone on board a flight.

And in February, a dozen London-based passengers were thrown off a Jamaica-bound Boeing 767 in the US after a fight broke out on board.

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