Nearly one in six (17 per cent) Ryanair passengers have been on a flight with a disruptive passenger in the past year, according to a new travel survey.
The no-frills carrier tops the Which? Travel ‘rankings of shame’ in the skies, with Thomas Cook (15 per cent) and Tui (14 per cent) coming in second and third place respectively. EasyJet (13 per cent) was ranked fourth.
Overall, one in 10 passengers reported that they had experienced a flight blighted by shouting, drunkenness, verbal abuse or other obnoxious behaviour.
Nearly one in six (17 per cent) Ryanair passengers have been on a flight with a disruptive passenger in the past year, according to a new travel survey
Which? heard from one holidaymaker who said an enraged fellow passenger had to be ‘wrestled to the floor’ by an off-duty policeman when they were refused more alcohol after downing four vodkas.
Another passenger told of a flight from Newcastle to Alicante where a drunken stag party tried to set fire to a seat cover.
The results ‘raise concerns about how effectively airlines are managing troublesome passengers, particularly those who are drunk,’ said Which?
It has received numerous complaints of already drunk passengers being served more alcohol on-board.
It said: ‘Recent high profile incidents have drawn significant attention to the problem, which isn’t confined to short-haul or budget carriers, and it seems to be on the rise.’
The Which? survey found that 15 per cent of respondents had experienced obnoxious behaviour on a Thomas Cook flight
BAD BEHAVIOUR IN THE AIR
Ryanair – 17 per cent
Thomas Cook – 15 per cent
Tui – 14 per cent
EasyJet – 13 per cent
Jet2 – 11 per cent
Emirates – 8 per cent
Virgin – 8 per cent
BA – 7 per cent
Flybe – 5 per cent
Norwegian – 5 per cent
Source: Which? Travel. Figures are the percentage of passengers that told the organisation that they had experienced shouting, drunkenness, obnoxiousness, verbal abuse or other problems by fellow passengers on a flight in the past year.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), there was an average of 186 disruptive passenger incidents a year on flights between 2012 and 2016. In 2017, that number had jumped to 417.
Which? continued: ‘Airlines have acknowledged there’s a problem. However, the approach of some carriers – who often incentivise crew to sell a range of products on-board by paying commission – to tackling the issue doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.’
EasyJet has said that the consumption of duty-free alcohol on planes, which is already banned by airlines, should be a criminal offence.
However, Which? has also spoken to an easyJet flight attendant who ‘lifted the lid’ on the airline’s approach to alcohol on flights – claiming the airline only pays ‘lip-service’ to reducing problem drinking.
The attendant also exposed how cabin crew are rewarded for selling the most alcohol and that training on dealing with disruptive passengers lasted just two to four hours.
The staff member also revealed that they had been groped by drunk passengers, and reporting disruptive behaviour when the aircraft lands can mean hours of sitting around waiting to fill in additional paperwork, and this is unpaid, it was claimed.
Ryanair, meanwhile, recently announced it was calling for new restrictions on serving alcohol at airports, including a two-drink limit per passenger and no alcohol sales before 10am.
Yet in the same week, Which? points out, the airline also tweeted an image of an apparently paralytic young man lying on a beach with an empty bottle at his side. The caption to the photo included the approving tagline ‘this could be you’.
At the time Ryanair dismissed criticism of the tweet, saying that it was posted by social media staff members reminiscing about holiday antics.
The CAA has called for more prosecutions of passengers who break the law on board, and airport schemes, such as one in place at Glasgow where inebriated passengers can be reported to a central number, have had some success in reducing drunken behaviour.
Ryanair tweeted an image earlier this year of an apparently paralytic young man lying on a beach with an empty bottle at his side. The caption to the photo included the approving tagline ‘this could be you’
THE GLASGOW AIRPORT ANTI-DRUNK SCHEME
At Glasgow Airport, everybody who works at the airport is given a central phone number to call if they spot someone who’s drunk or aggressive. This information is then shared with bars and shops, which can refuse to sell that individual more alcohol. The police will also approach them and warn that they may not be allowed to board the plane. Police at Glasgow Airport told Which? that serious incidents fell to 27 in the first nine months of 2018, compared with 58 in the same period in 2017.
Which? said: ‘While these efforts are a good start, they need to be matched by airlines themselves, who need to accept more responsibility about their contribution to the problem.’
Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: ‘People should be able to take a flight without having to worry about their trip being disrupted or journey diverted by rowdy passengers who have had one too many.
‘Airlines need to take more responsibility for preventing passengers having too many drinks, and incentivising cabin staff to flog more gin and tonics isn’t the right way to do that.
‘Many of us like to enjoy a drink when heading off on holiday, and any measures taken by the aviation industry – and airlines in particular – should be aimed at those who go too far.’
The ranking came from a poll of 7,901 Which? members who completed a survey about their recent experiences of flying with an airline from the UK.
Which? recorded 12,459 member experiences and the question about disruptive behaviour was asked to the full sample.
MailOnline Travel contacted Ryanair for a comment but did not receive a reply.
A Thomas Cook Airlines spokesman said: ‘We want all our customers to have a safe, comfortable and relaxing journey with us. Disruptive passengers can ruin a flight for others on board and cause real issues for our crew. We recognise the role for airlines to play in reducing this type of behaviour, and our staff are trained to identify and stop serving customers who have had one too many.
‘However, too often we are left to deal with a problem which began before takeoff. We support measures to make licensing rules in airports consistent with those outside airports, which will help all our customers to have the best experience when flying Thomas Cook Airlines.’
Tui said: ‘This research represents a very small proportion of the six million customers we fly each year. Whilst instances of disruptive passengers are very rare, we will continue to work with the industry to help tackle the problem and we operate a zero tolerance policy on aggressive and abusive behaviour onboard our flights. The safety and security of all our customers and crew always remains our number one priority.’
In response to the flight attendant’s claims, easyJet said that it does run ‘on-board sales incentives’ but that these apply to the entire range carried and alcohol sales are restricted ‘as necessary’.
It didn’t provide a figure for how much training staff are given to deal with disruptive passengers but said they are ‘trained to assess and evaluate all disruptive incidents and act quickly and appropriately’.
It added: ‘The large majority of incidents of disruptive behaviour on flights are caused by passengers who have consumed too much alcohol before they fly.’
It also said it encourages staff to report incidents and claims that they are able to do this when on board the flight or immediately afterwards, while still being paid.
Richard Stephenson, CAA director, said: ‘Passengers need to know they will face the full weight of the law should they be found guilty of disorderly behaviour.’ The penalty for endangering the safety of an aircraft can be a custodial sentence of up to five years. Even being drunk on board an aircraft can result in an £80,000 fine, should the plane have to divert.