With 4.5m passengers set to jet off from the UK during the festive flying period, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is today warning travellers of the consequences of disruptive behaviour on board an aircraft. The CAA has revealed more than 326 incidents of disruptive passenger behaviour were reported in the first 10 months of the year, the majority of which were alcohol-related and frequently involved abusive and sometimes violent behaviour.

The latest figures mirror previous years, which have seen over 400 incidents reported for each full year. 

Date Number of reports 
2013 98
2014 145
2015 195
2016 415
2017 417
2018 326 (up to 31 October)
Total 1472


Although the clear majority of passengers enjoy the experience of trouble-free flying, the CAA is reiterating its call for airlines and enforcement agencies to make better use of laws already in place. The Civil Aviation Authority will work closely with the industry and government to bring prosecutions against disruptive passengers.

Richard Stephenson, Director of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Everyone wants their holiday flights to be enjoyable and trouble-free this Christmas. Drunken and abusive behaviour on an aeroplane is totally unacceptable. Not only does it upset everyone else, but it can also jeopardise flight safety. Criminal charges should be brought against offenders more often to act as a deterrent - passengers need to know they will face the legal consequences of disorderly behaviour.”

Offenders can be jailed for up to five years for endangering the safety of an aircraft. They can also be charged with specific offences of being drunk on board an aircraft and for acting in a disruptive manner. Smoking and failing to obey the commands of the captain are also against the law and can be punished by a fine or imprisonment.

Notes to editors:

Reported incidents of passenger disruption on board UK registered aircraft. Taken from the CAA's Mandatory Occurrence Reporting database.

The following criminal offences are contained within the Air Navigation Order and can be used by the police and Crown Prosecution Service to deal with cases of passenger disruption: 

1.    Endangering safety of an aircraft   
240. A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft.

2.    Drunkenness in aircraft   
242.- (1) A person must not enter any aircraft when drunk or be drunk in any aircraft. (2) A person must not, when acting as a member of the crew of any aircraft or being carried in any aircraft for the purpose of acting as a member of the crew, be under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to impair their capacity so to act.

3.    Smoking in aircraft   
243.- (1) In aircraft to which this paragraph applies, notices indicating when smoking is prohibited must be exhibited so as to be visible from each passenger seat. (2) Paragraph (1) applies to any aircraft registered in the United Kingdom, other than a PartCAT aircraft. (3) A person must not smoke in any compartment of an aircraft registered in the United Kingdom at a time when smoking is prohibited in that compartment by a notice to that effect exhibited by or on behalf of the pilot in command of the aircraft.

4.    Authority of pilot in command of an aircraft   
244. Every person in an aircraft must obey all lawful commands which the pilot in command of that aircraft may give for the purpose of securing the safety of the aircraft and of persons or property carried in the aircraft, or the safety, efficiency or regularity of air navigation.

5.       Acting in a disruptive manner 
245. A person must not while in an aircraft- (a) use any threatening, abusive or insulting words towards a member of the crew of the aircraft; (b) behave in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly manner towards a member of the crew of the aircraft; or (c) intentionally interfere with the performance by a member of the crew of the aircraft of the crew member's duties.

6.Within airport terminals regular UK criminal and civil law applies. Offences committed within the airport will be investigated and prosecuted under national law not under the Air Navigation Order.

7.The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.