Far be it from us to rubbish what appears to be a good story but The BBC Panorama TV programme is claiming tonight (14th August 2017) that arrests of passengers suspected of being drunk at UK airports and on flights has risen by 50 percent in a year. We think this is simply not true. In fact, we say using the programmes own statistics, it just does not add up. They say that a total of 387 people were arrested between February 06 and February 07 up from 255 the previous year. Now when I went to school 387 isn't double 255, and therefore cannot be viewed as drunk arrests being up by a half inside a year! The researchers (possibly from the trade body with an agenda to push?) seems to have fallen into the trap of mixing up the arrest figures and lumping in 'suspected drunks' with other categories including air rage and general disturbance.
The detailed public information requests we tabulate below seems to support our position over that of the Panorama programme makers. But that apart there is concern that alcohol at airports and on aircraft needs a fresh approach.
There are renewed calls from an airline trade body, to make consumption of airport purchased alcohol on board a place a criminal offence. Tim Alderslade of the former British Airlines Transport Association now rebranded as Airlines UK says: "Although incidents of disruptive behaviour are rare, when they do occur the results can be serious. Airlines have therefore been working hard to develop their own mitigations [SIC] and join with industry partners to tackle this issue, either bilaterally, or through UK Aviation Industry Code of Practice on disruptive Passengers.
"According to airline data, the majority of incidents involve alcoholic consumption [Julian Bray strongly disputes this, see data below]. This is an area the Code particularly focuses on - listing a number of commitments around the responsible sale of alcohol. We are hopeful that the industry can - through the full implementation of these commitments - .....we are asking the Government to make it a criminal offence to consume alcohol on an aircraft that was purchased at an airport. ...."
Julian Bray Aviation Expert, Broadcaster and Journalist writes: Although we covered this in detail, last year, the intervention of Airlines UK trade body has opened up the debate again.
Opening your own alcoholic drinks possibly purchased from the duty free outlet at the departure airport is already banned on aircraft, as you are only allowed to consume alcoholic drinks provided for sale or on free dispense by the airline.
It is true to say that every airline in the world has suffered at one time or another from air rage possibly caused by 'drunks on a plane.'
Ryanair after a series of incidents went a step further to try to stop that rule being broken and early on in the debate over 'duty free', Ryanair passengers enroute to (or returning from) Ibiza had their airport purchases of alcohol in bottles and packages taken from them and safely stored in the hold for the duration of the flight.
That initial stance has now gained widespread acceptance and has led to a call by an aviation trade organisation for the Air Navigation Rules to be changed. The recently rebranded 'Airlines UK' formerly British Airlines Transport Association has just issued a series of what we suggest are highly misleading statements, the biggest whopper being : "According to airline data, the majority of incidents involve alcohol consumption" but Airlines UK do not provide a link to the data, so working with BBC News for BBC Kent and BBC Surrey we did. Julian Bray crunched the Public Information Request data from several police forces, Industry research and from the Civil Aviation Authority. Whichever way you look at it, the statement by chief executive Tim Alderslade unfortunately just does not stack up.
The truth is to the contrary. According to the Met Police, at Heathrow only 6 alcohol related incidents were recorded in 2016, some 26 incidents at Stansted and 82 in Manchester.
The Met Police say Police National Computer (NSPIS) documents filed on the system relating to arrests on a plane were nearly 5,000 in 2014 and 2015 but show a dramatic decline to 3,000 in 2016. This we suggest shows the industry intensive information and staff awareness campaign plus widespread media publicity of the penalties, have clearly helped reduce the overall problem.
Simply the UK Air Navigation Laws as they exist already carry severe penalties and possible custodial sentences. To say nothing of the local legal process if an aircraft at has to divert, land at an off schedule foreign airport to offload someone into the arms of the local police force.
Having completed any local custodial sentence, and saddled with court and legal costs plus a huge fine £35,000 is not unheard of... the now convicted ex passenger will return to the UK to possibly face another trial and certainly further civil action in yet another Court, for the airline to recover the full cost of diverting the aircraft, landing charges, refuelling, extra staffing costs, and so on.
Then of course any conviction would probably place the person on the worldwide NO FLY list for life. So the penalties exist, they are severe, can be applied and in the case of the NO FLY list possibly last a lifetime..
We suggest that the trade association which in reality only represents a small number of airlines using UK airports, has somewhat over-egged its demands for consuming airport purchased alcohol on board, to be made a criminal offence. It is clear from the CAA 2016 figures for disruption in the air the incidents (not exclusively related to alcohol) totalled 421. Encouragingly for January to May this year (2017) the number recorded is 153 indicating that over the whole year we can expect a decrease or a downward trend.
But what is of interest to the aviation industry are the figures from several public information requests and extra research by various officials.
CAA Disruption in the air In 2016 recorded 421 cases and for Januray to may 2017 this is given as 153 cases.
Manchester Airport 2014 2015 2016
Air Rage/disorder 73 110 159
Boarding/Arrest on Plane 69 53 52
Denied Boarding 80 73 116
Violence 15 14 20
Alcohol related 45 53 82
London Heathrow Airport
Air Rage/disorder - - 44
Violence - - 31
Alcohol related - - 6
Air Rage/disorder 54 70 94
Air Rage / Board & Arrest 22/5 42/2 57/9
Denied Boarding 7 19 20
Violence 2 3 2
Alcohol related 10 13 26
But this is not a new issue raised by the trade body Airlines UK As we reported earlier last year: To impose a blanket ban on ground-side purchased alcohol is virtually unworkable, and will lead to extended check-in and departure times and greatly undermine the revenues flowing into airport operators in terms of shop rentals. In extreme cases, some airport terminals may be forced to close down or hike up airport tax or levy on individual flyers.
The argument is that some of these alcoholic packages from airport duty free shops are being covertly opened in flight (stag and hen groups are particularly singled out). Its claimed that covert drinking by these and other individuals coupled with the dehydration effect of pressurised air cabins and re-cycled air, rapidly enhances the effect of even a small amount of alcohol.
Cabin crew mentally keep tabs on their customers and will often refuse to serve passengers who appear to be drunk or simply not coping. It could also be medications mixed with alcohol and the effects of pressurised cabins are to also blame.
Some specialists even claim that it would handsomely pay the airlines to place a complimentary bottle of water in the pocket of every seat before passengers board.
The natural instinct would be for passengers to open and drink the water before the alcoholic drinks are served or airport purchased covert alcohol is prised open, and where the passenger has already pre-loaded at the airport, effectively water down the strength and effect.
The UKs' Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), says that cabin air pressure when flying effectively thins the blood. The knock-on effect of alcohol is therefore more dramatic and immediate.
But some experts ( Where would we be without experts?) still aren't convinced. They suggest you may feel drunk because flying conditions mean less oxygen reaches your brain.
However you look at it, the end result is the same, less alcohol consumption in flight will help cut down the number of passengers deplaned at an unscheduled foreign airport, possibly thrown into a foreign jail overnight and up before local courts, fined, facing a worldwide air travel ban and left to their own devices to find a way back home where UK police will be waiting and may possibly also join in the fray and take legal criminal action.
Airlines are also keen on taking legal action in the UK and at destination countries, to fully recover the extras costs of diverting an aircraft, these include fuel used and emergency landing charges, aircraft hire for time diverted and effectively time denied to the operator.
None of this will be covered by travel insurance and a flight ban could last a lifetime. It not a cheap option either a fine of 25,000 euros and additional fines in the UK blew a hole of around £35,000 in one drunks bank balance and he still cannot fly anywhere!
Passengers in flight will find that technically there's no set age restriction on buying alcohol. Airlines will however be guided by local laws and customs for example America sets an age of over 21, whereas the UK has an 18 years or over threshold for the purchase of alcohol.
The captain of the aircraft is in legal terms under the Air Navigation Orders dubbed 'the commander', he can at any time devolve absolute powers to his crew.
Recent incidents over overbooking have been highlighted with passengers being bumped, but the moment a commander decides he/she needs that seat back, or for any reason that the person off the aircraft for whatever reason, there is no legal comeback.
Although is certain circumstances compensation is payable. Simply the passenger is from that moment, declared not legal on board!
There are no limits on alcohol bought for personal use if you're travelling within the EU (although you might be taxed if you have a lot). From anywhere else in the world, the limit depends on the type of drink.
Beer it's 16 litres and for Wine (not sparkling), four litres. You can also bring one litre of spirits or liquors over 22% strength or two litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine and weaker alcohol.
However most airlines won't let you carry more than five litres or alcohol stronger than 70%.
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, ... Travel & Holiday Guru www.aviationcomment.com , ... http://www.freelancedirectory.org/user.php?user=8121 ... www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment, ... Aviation / Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industries, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 ... SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476