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Police issue warning as summer crackdown on disruptive passengers launches at Gatwick Airport

Passengers are being reminded to “behave responsibly and fly responsibly” when at Gatwick Airport, as part of a project to tackle all forms of disruptive behaviour.

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Reported incidents of disorderly behaviour are comparatively rare at the airport but when incidents occur they can have a significant impact on the travel plans of other passengers, especially when a flight is delayed or diverted.

On Wednesday 1 May, Sussex Police and Gatwick Airport launched Project Disrupt – a collaborative approach committed to reducing the number of disruptive passenger incidents, both at the airport and on board aircraft.

A total of 379 incidents of disruption were reported to police during the summer campaign in 2018, representing just 0.001 per cent of all passengers.

Of those reports, a total of 77 passengers were refused carriage.

In addition, 56 passengers were arrested for offences including being drunk and disorderly (before getting on board an aircraft), being drunk on board an aircraft, assault and endangering an aircraft – up from 48 in 2017.

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.

Disruptive behaviour however also includes all forms of verbal or physical abuse, antisocial behaviour, criminal damage, smoking or vaping and drug use.

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

The force, working closely with the airport, its pubs and bars, and airlines, will carry out dedicated patrols as part of Project Disrupt, which runs all year round but with increased activity and focus during the summer months.

The project also encourages staff from across the airport campus – including those employed at check-in desks, security check points, shops, restaurants, and taxi ranks – to report incidents of disruptive behaviour early on.

Gatwick is also this year introducing a streamlined process to encourage both improved reporting and subsequent action to deal with incidents of disruptive behaviour before they potentially escalate. For example, data on all incidents will now be recorded differently – often in real time and on handheld devices ‘at the scene’ – to improve communication between airport, airlines and the police.

Data incidents will also be regularly analysed to identify patterns and potential root causes, helping to targeted action to deal with the problem at source.

This proactive approach involves early engagement with passengers, ensuring they are aware of their responsibility before they board a flight – or face the consequences, which are clearly displayed at various locations across the airport.

Inspector James Biggs, of the Gatwick Prevention Team, said: “While the vast majority of passengers are well-behaved, and travel through the airport and arrive at their destination without a problem, there is a very small minority who ruin it for themselves and for others.

“By engaging with passengers at the earliest opportunity – through patrols, face to face contact by Police and airport staff and the distribution of posters and leaflets – we are making them fully aware of the rules and their own responsibility.

“Passengers could be refused carriage if they are considered to be drunk, disorderly or disruptive.

“We are not out there with the intention to arrest people or ruin their holiday; we want all passengers to travel through Gatwick safely and smoothly.

“We are fully committed to working with Gatwick Airport to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

Nikki Barton, Head of Stable Operations, Gatwick Airport, said: “Only a tiny minority of Gatwick’s 46 million annual passengers are disruptive, but we are determined to do what we can to stamp out this sort of behaviour.

“A range of measures including working collaboratively with our airlines and the police to encourage early reporting and targeted intervention appear to be working. We are, however, introducing further measures to prevent more serious incidents of disruptive behaviour from occurring on board aircraft, and this year a new streamlined reporting and recording process should help us to respond and deal with incidents as they occur on the airport.

“It remains vital that the public are aware of the serious consequences of being disruptive while at an airport or on an aircraft.”

Gatwick

“the scale of expansion currently being proposed would have a very wide range of impacts on the local community” says Crawley Council as Gatwick confirms to use standby runway

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It was not at all unexpected. Gatwick Airport has revealed their plans to use its current standby runway for departing flights.

In order for them to do so though they will have to seek planning permission so that the airstrip can be widened as well as increase the gap between both runways.

But whilst some it’s potentially good news for jobs there has already been a backlash from campaign groups.

Crawley Council meanwhile has also made a statement, carefully worded to neither show support for or against the move.

A council spokesperson said:

“Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) is currently seeking permission for simultaneous use of both the airport’s existing and its standby runways. The question of whether or not to permit the dual use of these runways belongs exclusively to central government, with Crawley Borough Council having no direct role in the decision-making process. However, alongside other neighbouring planning authorities we do have the opportunity to participate in the process of scrutinising their emerging plans to ensure that all relevant considerations have been taken into account.

“Gatwick Airport is the biggest business in Crawley and the scale of expansion currently being proposed would have a very wide range of impacts on the local community. The participation of council officers and consultants in scrutinising Gatwick’s proposals is vital to ensuring these impacts are fully considered and that, in the event the Government approves the proposal, all possible mitigations are put into effect.

“When a developer seeks planning permission they are required to pay the council a planning fee to cover the costs involved in determining their application. In this case that fee will be going to the Government, as they are taking the decision. Consequently, to ensure we can afford to fully participate in the scrutiny process without unreasonable cost to the taxpayer, Crawley Borough Council alongside other neighbouring councils are negotiating an agreement with GAL to ensure that they provide the funding necessary for local authorities to fully participate in the planning process.”

But only time will tell on whether negotiations with GAL will provide the funding Crawley Borough Council needs to be able to participate in the way they feel they need to.

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