The number of drunken and violent airline passengers is on the rise, prompting the aviation regulator to call for more prosecutions.

The Civil Aviation Authority revealed that there had been more than 200 incidents about disruptive passengers reported by UK between January and July 16 – before the start of the busy summer flying season.

The latest figures mirror previous years, which have seen more than 400 incidents reported for each full year, many involving acts of violent and intimidating behaviour.

The CAA is calling on airlines and enforcement agencies to make better use of laws already in place.

The regulator will work closely with the industry and government to bring prosecutions against disruptive passengers.

CAA director Richard Stephenson said: “Everyone wants their holiday flights to be enjoyable and trouble-free.

“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 full weight of the law should they be found guilty 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.

The latest figures show 1,472 reported incidents between 2013 and July this year and come as a poll out today showed that two thirds of people have encountered drunken airline passengers (see separate story).

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry association Airlines UK, said: “Although incidents of disruptive behaviour are rare, where they do happen the consequences can be serious. As these stats demonstrate, the problem has increased substantially over the past five years.

“We’ve been working closely with government and the CAA, as well as other industry stakeholders, to tackle this problem, however this worrying trend of increased incidents shows that more can be done.

“As airline data shows around half of cases involve alcohol, airlines believe that the current exemption for airports from the Licensing Act should be removed so whilst passengers can still enjoy a drink to start their holiday, airport outlets would be subject to the same licensing requirements as bars, pubs and other outlets selling alcohol in towns and cities across the country, as well as landside at airports.”

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