Britain’s biggest trade union Unite is calling for new laws to limit how much passengers can drink at UK airports and on flights after a woman who’d taken a cocktail of drugs and alcohol was jailed for trying to open the door of a Jet2 plane mid-flight.
Unite, which represents 25,000 cabin crew, described the current system as ‘a regulatory mess’ as airport and airline alcohol sales aren’t governed by the same laws as pubs in the UK.
In addition to legal limits on the amount of duty-free alcohol passengers can consume, it wants passengers to be given warnings about disruptive behaviour.
Chloe Haines was jailed for two years on Wednesday after she pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of a passenger plane and assault by beating.
She had taken alcohol and medication prior to the flight to Dalaman on June 22 last year, which had to be escorted back to Stansted by two RAF fighter jets, at a cost of £86,000, following her mid-flight outburst.
Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said: “This was a serious incident that endangered passengers and crew. Unfortunately, our members are reporting a disturbing increase in such incidents on flights, many of them linked to alcohol consumption.
“The aviation industry has a voluntary code of conduct for dealing with disruptive passengers, but it has proved to be weak and ineffective. We need much stronger preventive measures backed up by legislation.”
Unite wants new legislation that requires passengers to be advised about what constitutes unacceptable behaviour at check in, at the same time as they’re given information about what items they can and can’t take onboard, and a range of sanctions for disruptive conduct, ranging from fines to imprisonment.
“If you go into a pub in the UK, drinkers’ behaviour is governed by laws stretching back to the First World War.
“However, at airports these regulations don’t apply – it is often seen as an alcohol free-for-all which is wide open to abuse. It is a regulatory mess.
“We don’t want to be killjoys and stop sensible drinking for those going on or returning from holiday, but the safety of airlines’ pilots and cabin crew, and passengers must be paramount,” said Richardson.
Unite wants future legislation to include:
- at check-in, passengers be advised what constitutes an offence and the penalties that could be incurred – in the same way, that passengers are currently advised about what items should not be carried in their luggage widespread signage warning of the consequences of rowdy behaviour should be displayed in all airports
- at security, those displaying anti-social behaviour should be barred from continuing on their journey
- after security, there should be a limit on the purchase and consumption of alcohol. Duty-free shops should not sell alcohol that can be broken down into cans, miniatures and small bottles
- at boarding, further checks so those displaying drunken and disruptive behaviour are not allowed to board the aircraft
- once the flight has been taken off, the consumption of drinks bought at the duty-free shops or at the airport should be prohibited
- badly behaved passengers to face bans on flying for a set period.