Ministers need to step in and tighten up the laws over how much passengers can drink at UK airports and on aircraft, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 13 February).

Unite, which represents 25,000 cabin crew employed in all carriers from British Airways to Ryanair, said the present system was ‘a regulatory mess’.

Unite was commenting after Chloe Haines was jailed for two years yesterday (Wednesday 12 February) for trying to open a door on a jet from Stansted bound for Turkey in June, resulting in two RAF fighters being scrambled.

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. 

“We are calling on ministers to introduce legislation that requires the industry to advise passengers what is expected of them in terms of behaviour, and that, in instances of cases of disruptive conduct, this is backed up by a range of sanctions 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.”

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.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065
Email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.