British airports and flights have a booze problem that’s leading to skyrocketing arrests

Seeing red.
Seeing red.
Image: Unsplash/Ahmed Saffu via CC0
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There has been an alarming surge in air passenger arrests on flights to and from the UK in the last year.

A BBC Panorama investigation found that 387 passengers were arrested for alcohol-related offences between February 2016 and 2017, in comparison to 255 in the previous year.

Airline staff have reported an increasing number of incidents on board their aircraft, with routes from the UK to Spain being among the most problematic. In a survey of 4,000 workers by Unite, one in five said that they had been assaulted by members of the public, while more than 50% reported that they had witnessed verbal, sexual or physical harassment.

Employees are now calling for the UK government to get tougher on alcohol in airports, and to ban the consumption of alcohol purchased in duty free during flights. The House of Lords has also argued that airports should be bound by the same licensing laws as other bars and pubs across the country. A voluntary code of conduct (pdf) on disruptive passengers was introduced last summer, but it hasn’t been enough to curb a growing onboard problem.

Ally Murphy quit her job with Virgin Airlines last year, and shared some of her stories as part of the BBC’s investigation. She said that one passenger, who had taken sleeping pills with alcohol, attempted to open the plane door during a flight. She also explained how cabin crew had been touched inappropriately and treated like “barmaids in the sky”.

“I was pulled into an upper-class bed by a passenger who was feeling particularly lucky. They would touch your breasts, or they’d touch your bum or your legs. I’ve had hands going up my skirt before. It’s rage-inducing and you shouldn’t have to deal with that,” she added.

Earlier this year, low-cost Russian carrier Pobeda Airlines, announced that it would teach employees martial arts to tackle passenger violence, after a member of the public started swinging at an employee when he missed a flight.