Holidaymakers are being reminded to drink responsibly at Gatwick Airport as an annual campaign to tackle disruptive passengers is launched.
For the fourth successive year, Sussex Police and Gatwick Airport are launching Operation Disrupt – a summer campaign committed to targeting problematic groups and individuals at the airport and on board aircraft.
Reported incidents of disorderly behaviour are comparatively rare at the airport – representing just 0.0008 per cent of all passengers – but when incidents happen they can have a significant impact on the travel plans of other passengers in the instance a flight is delayed or diverted, a Sussex Police spokesman said.
Airlines have a right to refuse to carry passengers they consider to be a potential risk to the safety of their aircraft, its crew or its passengers.
Any individual convicted of being drunk on board an aircraft could face a maximum fine of £5,000 and two years in prison, a spokesman added.
Offenders may also be required to reimburse an airline in the event of a diverted or cancelled flight.
Heightened awareness of the Sussex Police and Gatwick Airport co-funded campaign among all airport staff last year led to an increase in the early reporting of incidents from frontline staff.
A total of 173 incidents of disruption were reported as part of the summer 2017 campaign – up from 113 in 2016. Of those reports, a total of 80 passengers were refused carriage – up from 44 in 2016, a spokesman said.
In addition, 48 passengers were arrested for offences including being drunk and disorderly (before getting on board an aircraft), being drunk on board an aircraft, assault and endangering an aircraft – up from 20 in 2016.
Sgt Taylor said: “We are encouraged, rather than concerned, by these statistics, because it means the airlines are reporting more incidents to us. This demonstrates our positive working relationship and their increasing level of trust in us to support them and take the appropriate action against offenders.
“We also had a higher number of officers committed to the operation compared to the previous year, and we’re confident it will be just as successful in 2018.”
The force, working closely with the airport, its pubs and bars, and airlines, will carry out increased patrols as part of Operation Disrupt, which runs from Monday (May 20), to September 2.
The operation also encourages staff from across the airport campus – including those employed at shops, restaurants, check-in desks and taxi ranks – to report incidents of disruptive behaviour early on.
This proactive approach involves early engagement with passengers, ensuring they are aware of their responsibility before they board a flight – or face the consequences, which are clearly displayed at various locations across the airport.
Sergeant Darren Taylor, of the Gatwick Prevention Team, said: “While the vast majority of passengers are well-behaved, and travel through the airport and arrive at their destination without a problem, there is a very small minority who ruin it for themselves and for others.
“By engaging with passengers at the earliest opportunity – through patrols, face to face contact and the distribution of posters and leaflets – we are making them fully aware of the rules and their own responsibility.
“You could be refused carriage or sent on the next plane home if you are considered to be drunk, disorderly or disruptive. It’s as simple as that.
“However we are not out there with the intention to arrest people or ruin their holiday; we want all passengers to travel through Gatwick safely and with minimal fuss. By making our stance clear from the outset, the onus is on them to behave themselves.
“We are fully committed to supporting our partners and providing assistance where necessary to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Anyone who compromises this will be dealt with robustly.”