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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK

UK Politics

New laws tackle 'air rage'

UK airlines report a 400% increase in air rage cases

Wide-ranging laws on "air rage", to crack down on disruptive behaviour by passengers on flights, have been announced by the government.

Abusive airline passengers will face up to two years in jail or a £2,000 fine under the curbs, which will specifically cover interfering with members of the crew on an aircraft.

Passengers will be disciplined for offences such as smoking, drunkenness and anti-social activities.

The BBC's Simon Montague reports: "The new law means tougher penalties for passengers who have committed air rage offences"
The new measures will boost existing laws, under the Air Navigation Order, which cover passengers endangering the safety of flights.

Earlier this week Helen Liddell, then Transport Minister, told the BBC: "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.

[ image: Fiona Weir needed 18 stitches after she was attacked]
Fiona Weir needed 18 stitches after she was attacked
Ms Liddell said the government would take on board that people behaving in such an appalling manner were putting people's lives at risk.

UK airlines have reported a 400% increase in such cases in the past three years.

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.

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.

[ image: Neil Whitehouse was jailed last week for refusing to switch off his phone]
Neil Whitehouse was jailed last week for refusing to switch off his phone
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.

Neil Whitehouse, 28, was given a year's jail sentence earlier this month 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 plane in the US after a fight broke out on board.

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