Minister in talks on air passengers

BRITISH AIRLINES will call for tougher penalties on dangerous passengers when the industry meets with Government later today. But it is expected to back away from plans for a blacklist of disruptive passengers, because of civil liberties issues.

John Reid, the Transport minister, called a meeting of airlines, police chiefs, aviation trade unions and the Civil Aviation Authority, in the wake of the publicity surrounding the alleged attack on an air stewardess by a drunken passenger.

Steven Handy, 37, is claimed to have clubbed Fiona Weir, 31, and slashed her with a bottle on an Airtours flight from Gatwick to Malaga on 29 October.

Howard Davies, secretary-general of the British Association of Air Transport, said airlines wanted to see offenders prosecuted by the police and for the courts to impose tougher penalties. He said an assault on board an aircraft might attract two years in jail, but a similar offence committed on the high street would attract a harsher sentence.