“It is against European law to be drunk on board an aircraft and therefore cabin crew have a duty to control the amount of alcohol consumed by any passenger,” reads the email that landed in my inbox from Monarch, just before my flight to Ibiza.
Never before had I before received a warning email from an airline asking me to keep my behaviour, and more importantly my alcohol consumption, under control. Standard procedure on a late flight, I thought, everyone will be asleep before we even take off. How wrong was I?
I arrived at Gatwick along with the classic entourage of flat-capped males and maxi-dressed females who traipsed onto the aircraft ready for the 11pm take off. Safety procedures were well out the way and the plane was slowly taxying its way to the runway when the disruption I was warned about began.
The slurred words of a drunken passenger came flying down the gangway as he escaped the furious flight attendant storming after him. His sick-splattered T-shirt swayed in front of me as he stopped briefly to shout abuse at a passenger before veering towards his red-faced girlfriend. The poor girl was about to become a lot more flushed on learning that her loving boyfriend had just inappropriately touched a flight attendant at the back of the plane.
Cries of anger from other travellers caused the man to turn and address the plane. “It’s my birthday,” he announced to an unsympathetic crowd. As flight attendants called the police, his final act was a clumsy dance in the aisle to a heavily sarcastic rendition of happy birthday. We eventually took off two hours later.
Every summer thousands of party-goers flood from the UK to get a dose of sun, sand and sea in Europe. Holiday destinations including Ibiza, Magaluf and Ayia Napa profit from hoards of pasty twenty-something’s arriving every day. Their main goal is to get drunk, which often starts before they’ve even left the airport.
According to 53 airlines who took part in a 2013 survey by the International Air Transport Association, tipsy holiday-goers have become increasingly disruptive over the years.
The survey revealed that 43 per cent of airlines experienced more than 100 cases of unruly passengers in the last 12 months.
This causes long delays and distress to flight attendants. One such former flight attendant, Jane Goodchild, Cabin Crew Regional Manager for Monarch, became so agitated by the lack of action taken that she initiated a scheme at Gatwick airport in collaboration with Sussex Police.
This was introduced in September 2012 to monitor customer’s behaviour while they are in the airport and to prevent drunken customers from purchasing more alcohol on the ground and on board.
“The system is airport-wide, meaning if any member of staff witnesses a travelling customer intoxicated, aggressive or disruptive, that customer is managed prior to boarding,” Jane explained.
“We have seen a halving of reported incidents of anti-social behaviour last year and a further halving of reports this year, so it is proving very effective.”
In January 2014 the most recent part of the scheme began, in the form of the cautionary email I received before my flight. It outlines clearly the consequences an individual might face should Monarch believe anyone’s behaviour is unacceptable.
“If the passenger refuses any lawful commands from the captain they are liable to face either a substantial fine, imprisonment or both,” Jane said.
Clearly Monarch is taking the right approach to anti-social behaviour on board flights and soon other airlines will begin to follow suit. The drunken man on board my flight heading to Ibiza was arrested on the aircraft for causing a two-hour flight delay. Passengers were assured by the pilot that he would receive a significant fine for his offences.
While the scheme would not work without the cooperation of other businesses within Gatwick Airport, it seems that Monarch is taking the most proactive approach to anti-social behaviour.
And now that the crack down on disruptive behaviour has begun, it makes sense to save your first drink for when you arrive – or you might never make it.