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Latest figures show campaign working as on-board incidents at Gatwick for drunk & disruptive passengers falls

A multi-agency campaign to combat drunken and disruptive behaviour at Gatwick Airport has proved successful once again, and led to fewer on-board incidents.



For the past four years, Sussex Police has worked closely with Gatwick Airport, its retailers and restaurants, and airlines, to prevent, reduce and control reports of problematic passengers at the airport and on flights.

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 1 April and 31 August – an increase from four days a week during the 2017 campaign.

Retail, restaurant and airline 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. This is a 119 per cent increase on the 173 incidents recorded for the same period last year (2017), however airlines have stated there were fewer on-board incidents, reflecting the success of the operation’s focus on early reporting and early intervention.

There were 113 recorded incidents in 2016 and 118 in 2015.

Of the 379 incidents recorded, 113 (30 per cent) involved alcohol as the main factor and a further 113 (30 per cent) involved abusive or aggression as the main factor. 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, although arrests for alcohol-related incidents fell by 26 in 2017 to 18 in 2018.

Of the total arrests, 11 received 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.”

Nikki Barton, Head of Stable Operations, Gatwick Airport, said:

“Only a small minority of Gatwick passengers are disruptive, but we are determined to do what we can to stamp out this sort of behaviour.

“By encouraging staff to report incidents to the police as early as possible we are purposely trying to prevent more serious situations from occurring later in their journey while on board aircraft. The fall in on board incidents shows that this approach is working but it remains vital that the public are aware of the serious consequences of being disruptive while at an airport or on an aircraft.”

Airlines have a right to refuse to carry passengers they consider to be a potential risk to the safety of their aircraft, its crew or its passengers.

Any individual convicted of being drunk on board an aircraft could face a maximum fine of £5,000 and two years in prison.

Offenders may also be required to reimburse an airline in the event of a diverted or cancelled flight.


Brighton mainline closed this Sunday between Gatwick and Redhill

Rail engineering work will close all lines on the Brighton Mainline between Gatwick and Redhill on Sunday 27 January.



  • Busses will run between Gatwick and both Redhill and East Grinstead, where trains can be caught to East Croydon, London and beyond
  • Direct trains to London Victoria will run every 30 minutes from the airport but these will divert via Horsham and will take much longer than normal
  • No Gatwick Express service will run on Sunday

The work is being carried out to improve the reliability and resilience of the Brighton mainline.

Rail replacement bus services will run between the airport and both Redhill and East Grinstead where passengers will be able to get trains to East Croydon, London and beyond.

A direct train service to London Victoria will run every 30 minutes from Gatwick, but these divert via Horsham and will take much longer than normal.  These services will also call at Clapham Junction, Horsham and Three Bridges.

No Gatwick Express service will run at all on Sunday 27 January.

All passengers traveling to and from the airport by rail are urged to plan ahead and to leave plenty of additional time to complete their journey. 

Further information can be found on National Rail’s journey planner at cent 5; \ls

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