New law to fight air rage

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The Independent Online
PASSENGERS COULD face jail sentences of up to two years for causing trouble on planes under measures to combat the growing problem of "air rage".

As millions of Britons prepare to fly off for their holidays, Helen Liddell, the Transport minister, will announce on Thursday that the Government is determined to stamp out the growing menace of disruption by passengers on flights.

The measures will be aimed at passengers who get drunk, are abusive to cabin staff and flight crews and, in the worst cases, cause fights on board.

Mrs Liddell is expected to announce an offence of "interfering with cabin crew carrying out their duties" that will carry a penalty of imprisonment of up to two years or a pounds 2,000 fine. It is likely to be introduced under the existing aviation laws and could be in force relatively quickly.

It follows a 400 per cent increase in cases of "air rage" reported by British airlines in the past three years. About 1,000 incidents are reported each year, including the case last week of the oil worker, Neil Whitehouse, 28, who was jailed for one year for refusing to switch off his mobile telephone on a flight.

In one case, an unemployed man left an air hostess battered and bruised after a drunken assault. The separate case of the "Airtours 12" caused outrage when a dozen passengers from a caravan site in South London were thrown off a Jamaica-bound Boeing 767 in the US after a drunken fight broke out on board with other passengers.

Airline chiefs have called for a new offence to cover passengers who do not directly affect the safety of an aircraft or cause criminal damage, but who disrupt staff.

The Government proposals could cover drunkenness, smoking and other anti-social activities that hamper staff.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport, the Environment and the Regions said Mrs Liddell would make a statement on the Air Navigation Order on Thursday.