A campaign to combat drunken and disruptive behaviour at Gatwick Airport has led to fewer on-board incidents.
Sussex Police has worked closely with Gatwick Airport, its retailers, restaurants and airlines for the past four years, to prevent and reduce the numbers of problem passengers at the airport and on flights.
A police spokesman said: “Recorded incidents of disorderly behaviour are comparatively rare at the airport – representing just 0.001 per cent of all passengers – but when incidents do occur they can have a significant impact on the travel plans of other passengers in the instance a flight is delayed or diverted.”
As part of ‘Operation Disrupt 2018’, officers were dedicated to carrying out proactive and reactive patrols daily between April 1 and August 31 – an increase from four days a week during the 2017 campaign.
Airport staff were also encouraged to report incidents of disruptive behaviour to police as early as possible so they could intervene and help prevent situations from escalating.
A total of 379 incidents were recorded - a 119 per cent increase on the 173 incidents recorded for the same period last year. However airlines say there were fewer on-board incidents.
There were 113 recorded incidents in 2016 and 118 in 2015.
Of the 379 incidents recorded, 113 involved alcohol and a further 113 involved abusive or aggression. Other issues included lost or misplaced luggage, medical episodes and missed or delayed flights.
Inspector Darren Taylor, of the Gatwick Airport Policing Team, said: “This is the fourth successive term we’ve run Operation Disrupt, and the support we receive is growing year on year. More airlines and businesses at the airport are getting on board with it, more passengers are aware of it through increased publicity and proactive patrols, and overall it has been very well received.
“Working with our partners and encouraging early reporting, and having more police resources dedicated to the campaign, is reflected in the increase in recorded incidents this year. But the number of incidents is still miniscule compared to the number of passengers who travel through Gatwick Airport each year, maintaining its reputation as a safe and secure destination to travel to and from.”
There were a total of 56 arrests with 11 of those receiving a police caution, 13 received a fixed penalty notice, 11 were charged to court, one was deported, one was summonsed to court, five were wanted on warrant and two were released under investigation.
The remaining 12 individuals were either de-arrested or had no further action taken against them.
An additional 77 passengers were refused carriage.
Insp Taylor said: “We’re receiving more reports of incidents as they happen on the ground, which gives us the opportunity to deal with individuals before they board an aircraft, where they could potentially cause further disruption. In turn, this has led to a decrease in incidents occurring on-board.
“However we can’t be complacent – while the main aim of the operation is to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place, there is a small minority of people who believe it’s acceptable to abuse staff who are simply doing their job. It is not acceptable and it will not be tolerated.
“While this is a dedicated operation which runs over the summer months, we will continue to deal with any offences as part of our day-to-day policing of the airport throughout the year.”