Branson launches air-rage blacklist

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THE BOTTLE attack on stewardess Fiona Weir yesterday re-ignited calls for international guidelines on passenger blacklisting.

British Airways said it would be bringing increased pressure to bear on the International Air Transport Association to adopt a global database which logs dangerous passengers.

The move by BA, which has already introduced its own in-house version dubbed the "yellow card" system, follows similar calls from Ms Weir's own airline, Airtours, and Virgin Atlantic.

Airtours and Virgin have already banned Ms Weir's attacker, Steven Handy, for life. They have called on the Civil Aviation Authority to set up a blacklist to alert airlines to troublesome passengers.

The number of disruptive incidents where unruly passengers have had to be restrained are reported to have increased fourfold since 1995.

Incidents have ranged from verbal abuse and drunkenness to storming the flight deck and potentially disastrous attempts to open the emergency hatch.

The Civil Aviation Authority said there were 108 incidents involving disruptive passengers last year but police claim that two "medium-sized" UK airlines alone recorded 1,190 incidents.

Alcohol Concern said "more than half" were alcohol related but this is not borne out in British Airways statistics.

Of the 262 incidents officially logged disruptive, some 172 involved passengers attempting to smoke on non-smoking flights; drink-related incidents counted for just under a quarter of all incidents with the rest attributed to "abusive" passengers.

British airlines have so far resisted calls for an outright alcohol ban saying the violent passenger is rare - last year 17 BA passengers were convicted for violence out of a total 41 million who flew with them. Measures already adopted by most airlines include temporary confiscation of duty-free alcohol, banning drunks from boarding and refusing to serve drunks.

British Airways said last night: "We do not want to ban alcohol from what is usually a pleasant and safe flight for the vast majority of reasonable individuals who use our services, simply because of a minority of kill- joys."

Virgin Atlantic boss, Richard Branson, said he would be pressing ahead for a shared database with Airtours sometime this week. He said: "Our stewards and stewardesses must be protected against maniacs like this.

"Airlines and holiday companies world-wide must act together to ground for life anyone who acts violently. No airline should risk carrying them."

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