Drunk passengers have been warned they could face fines of up to £80,000 should a plane have to divert because of disruptive behaviour.
Ministers have backed a campaign from the aviation industry to tackle problem drinking, which airlines say shows no sign of abating, despite previous initiatives.
Early morning bar openings and duty free sales at airports have been blamed by airlines for a series of costly and potentially dangerous incidents in the air.
The One Too Many campaign, which highlights the problems a drunk passenger can cause, will target holidaymakers at airports across Britain this summer. As well as reminding passengers they can be denied boarding if inebriated, an offence on a plane, it warns that penalties could include up to two years in prison and being banned from future flights, as well as hefty fines for diverting a plane.
he campaign was launched by the aviation minister, Lady Sugg, on what was expected to be the busiest day of the summer for UK air travel, with almost 9,000 departing flights. Sugg said on Friday: “Disruptive passengers have the potential to ruin other people’s flights, and this campaign is an important new step to ensure all passengers are aware of the consequences they face if they behave disruptively after drinking before or on board a flight.”
Civil Aviation Authority figures showed 417 flights were affected by serious passenger misconduct last year.
Rafael Schvartzman, of the International Air Transport Association, said: “While we should remember that disruptive passenger incidents are still relatively rare, they rank in the top three concerns of cabin crew, and any incident is one too many. Airlines have a zero-tolerance approach to unruly behaviour and cabin crew and passengers have a right to a flight free from disturbance and harassment. The party should be at the destination, not on the plane.”
However, some airlines said the campaign did not go far enough. Phil Ward, the managing director of Jet2.com, said he welcomed the initiative but said similar public awareness campaigns launched in the last few years had not reduced incidents of drunken, disruptive passenger behaviour.
“Although our crew and colleagues are highly trained and do a fantastic job in often difficult circumstances, it is unacceptable that they must be left to manage the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. At the same time, customers travelling on well-earned holidays should not be subjected to this behaviour,” he said.
Ward called for sealed bags preventing the illicit consumption of duty free alcohol, and more rigorous licensing standards in airports.
A week ago, three Scottish passengers were arrested off a Jet2 flight landing in Crete after drinking a bottle of duty free gin and threatening to “do in” staff.