New restrictions on the sale of alcohol at airports are to be considered to clampdown on drink-fuelled air rage incidents.
New aviation minister Lord Ahmad said he did not want to “kill merriment altogether”, but to make sure the system to stop drunk travellers getting through airport departures was working.
Trade bodies responded by saying they would introduce a voluntary code of practice “to create a common, consistent approach that co-ordinates and enhances existing efforts to prevent and minimise disruptive passenger behaviour”.
Police statistics obtained by the Press Association through freedom of information requests showed at least 442 people were held on suspicion of being drunk on an aircraft or at an airport in the UK between March 2014 and March 2016.
In one recent case a female passenger punched an EasyJet pilot in the face after being ordered to leave an aircraft before take off from Manchester.
Six men on a stag party in February were arrested by German police after a mid-air brawl caused a Ryanair flight from Luton to Bratislava, Slovakia, to divert to Berlin.
The new voluntary guidance has been drawn up by the British Air Transport Association, the Airport Operators Association, the Airport Police Commanders Group, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and the UK Travel Retail Forum.
Bata and the AOA said incidents of disruptive behaviour were “a very rare occurrence”, but warned they could lead to “serious consequences”.
Lord Ahmad, who was appointed earlier this month, said he wanted to examine the way alcohol is sold at airports amid a spate of incidents on aircraft involving drunken passengers.
He also pledged to ensure the way in which unruly travellers are stopped from going through airport departure gates is “fit for purpose”.
Lord Ahmad said: “If you’re a young family travelling on a plane you want to go from point A to B, you don’t want to be disrupted.
“I don’t think we want to kill merriment altogether, but I think it’s important that passengers who board planes are also responsible and have a responsibility to other passengers, and that certainly should be the factor which we bear in mind.
“In terms of specific regulations of timings of outlets (which sell alcohol) and how they operate, clearly I want to have a look at that.”
However, the Department for Transport said there were “no plans” to review the rules which allow pubs and bars which are airside to sell alcohol round the clock.
Bata chief executive Tim Alderslade and AOA chairman Ed Anderson, responding to Lord Ahmad, said in a joint statement: “Last year over 251 million passengers passed through UK airports.
“Thankfully incidents of disruptive behaviour are a very rare occurrence but where they do happen the impact can have serious consequences for fellow passengers, employees working in the air and at the airport, as well as for the disruptive passengers themselves.
“These incidents can be costly and cause delays. With air travel proving more popular than ever, and passenger numbers expected to rise across the whole of the UK in the coming years, now is the time to tackle this problem collectively.
“As an industry we take a zero tolerance approach to disruptive passenger behaviour. That is why we have all – airlines, airports, duty free retailers, bar and pub managers, and the police -come together to develop the voluntary code of practice.
“This sets out how we can work collectively and individually further to reduce incidents of disruptive behaviour, and act to minimise the impact where they do occur despite our best combined efforts to prevent them.
“We are committed to ensuring passengers have a consistently safe and enjoyable experience when travelling and to providing a safe and pleasant work environment for our employees.
“Ultimately, we need the message to go out that all passengers are responsible for their own behaviour and that causing disruption on-board an aircraft is an illegal offence which can carry a heavy penalty, such as a travel ban, fine, or even a prison sentence.”
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