Gatwick Airport - police warning as crackdown starts on disruptive passengers

Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport

Nearly 400 ‘incidents of disruption’ by passengers at Gatwick Airport were reported to police last summer, with 77 people not allowed to fly.

In order to reduce those figures passengers are being reminded to “behave responsibly and fly responsibly” when at Gatwick Airport, as part of a project to tackle all forms of disruptive behaviour.

Sussex Police say that reported incidents of disorderly behaviour are comparatively rare at the airport but when incidents occur they can have a significant impact on the travel plans of other passengers, especially when a flight is delayed or diverted.

Yesterday (Wednesday May 1), Sussex Police and Gatwick Airport launched Project Disrupt – a collaborative approach committed to reducing the number of disruptive passenger incidents, both at the airport and on board aircraft.

A total of 379 incidents of disruption were reported to police during the summer campaign in 2018, representing just 0.001 per cent of all passengers.

Of those reports, a total of 77 passengers were refused carriage.

In addition, 56 passengers were arrested for offences including being drunk and disorderly (before getting on board an aircraft), being drunk on board an aircraft, assault and endangering an aircraft – up from 48 in 2017.

Airlines have a right to refuse to carry passengers they consider to be a potential risk to the safety of their aircraft, its crew or its passengers.

Any individual convicted of being drunk on board an aircraft could face a maximum fine of £5,000 and two years in prison.

Disruptive behaviour however also includes all forms of verbal or physical abuse, antisocial behaviour, criminal damage, smoking or vaping and drug use.

Offenders may also be required to reimburse an airline in the event of a diverted or cancelled flight.

The force, working closely with the airport, its pubs and bars, and airlines, will carry out dedicated patrols as part of Project Disrupt, which runs all year round but with increased activity and focus during the summer months.

The project also encourages staff from across the airport campus – including those employed at check-in desks, security check points, shops, restaurants, and taxi ranks – to report incidents of disruptive behaviour early on.

Gatwick is also this year introducing a streamlined process to encourage both improved reporting and subsequent action to deal with incidents of disruptive behaviour before they potentially escalate.

For example, data on all incidents will now be recorded differently – often in real time and on handheld devices ‘at the scene’ – to improve communication between airport, airlines and the police.

Data incidents will also be regularly analysed to identify patterns and potential root causes, helping to targeted action to deal with the problem at source.

Sussex Police say that this proactive approach involves early engagement with passengers, ensuring they are aware of their responsibility before they board a flight – or face the consequences, which are clearly displayed at various locations across the airport.

Inspector James Biggs, of the Gatwick Prevention Team, said: “While the vast majority of passengers are well-behaved, and travel through the airport and arrive at their destination without a problem, there is a very small minority who ruin it for themselves and for others.

“By engaging with passengers at the earliest opportunity – through patrols, face to face contact by Police and airport staff and the distribution of posters and leaflets – we are making them fully aware of the rules and their own responsibility.

“Passengers could be refused carriage if they are considered to be drunk, disorderly or disruptive.

“We are not out there with the intention to arrest people or ruin their holiday; we want all passengers to travel through Gatwick safely and smoothly.

“We are fully committed to working with Gatwick Airport to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

Nikki Barton, Head of Stable Operations, Gatwick Airport, said: “Only a tiny minority of Gatwick’s 46 million annual passengers are disruptive, but we are determined to do what we can to stamp out this sort of behaviour.

“A range of measures including working collaboratively with our airlines and the police to encourage early reporting and targeted intervention appear to be working. We are, however, introducing further measures to prevent more serious incidents of disruptive behaviour from occurring on board aircraft, and this year a new streamlined reporting and recording process should help us to respond and deal with incidents as they occur on the airport.

“It remains vital that the public are aware of the serious consequences of being disruptive while at an airport or on an aircraft.”