Many airlines work hard to ensure the safety of their passengers and cargo by introducing drug and alcohol testing policies. The policies and regulations within the aviation industry are designed to ensure staff (pilots, cabin crew etc) are fit for work and are capable of keeping their workplace safe. What happens though when it is the passengers the staff are trying to keep safe that are under the influence of alcohol?
One year ago a voluntary code of conduct was agreed between airlines, airports and police to minimise disruptive passenger behaviour. This order was introduced after the Civil Aviation Authority reported a 600% increase in disruptive passenger incidents in the UK between 2012 –2016. The intention was to ensure that no one would enter any aircraft when drunk, but it seems like the implementation of this code hasn’t really affected the number of on-board incidents.
The Unite Union which represents 30,000 UK cabin crew conducted a survey that revealed more than three quarters of their members witnessed alcohol-fuelled rage in the past year. 1 in 10 also stated that drunken behaviour of passengers threatened flight safety.
Unite’s national officer for civil air transport, Oliver Richardson, said:
“The abuse and disruptive behaviour cabin crew have to contend with in doing their job and ensuring passenger safety would not be tolerated in any other industry or walk of life.
“The industry and the Government need to recognise that the code of conduct must be given teeth, look at factors such as levels of alcohol consumption prior to flight departures, as well as tougher penalties for the perpetrators of such behaviour.”
These concerns are also shared by Europe’s biggest short-haul airline Ryanair, who recently called for a crackdown on alcohol sales at British airports. Kenny Jacobs, the airlines marketing director said:
“It’s completely unfair that airports can profit from the unlimited sale of alcohol to passengers and leave the airlines to deal with the safety consequences.
“This is a particular problem during flight delays when airports apply no limit to the sale of alcohol in airside bars and restaurants. This is an issue which the airports must now address and we are calling for significant changes to prohibit the sale of alcohol at airports, particularly with early morning flights and when flights are delayed.
To try and combat this problem Ryanair want airports to enforce a two-drink limit and to ban the sale of alcohol before 10am. This could be done by only selling alcohol to a passenger if they produce their boarding pass, and this way it can be monitored.
As the number of incidents increases and the measures that have been put in to place fail to work, it is only a matter of time before more changes are made. Airlines and airports need to do all they can to ensure on-board safety and it seems that they will have to try and manage their passengers as well as their staff.
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