/ Travel & Leisure

Have you encountered drunk passengers when flying?

Has your flight been ruined by drunk and disorderly passengers? It’s not a unique experience, according to our new research…

It’s always a bit of a gamble who you’ll end up sitting next to on a flight – but you’re really unlucky if you get stuck next to someone who’s had too many and has decided to act out.

It happened to me on a flight to Budapest when I was sat next to a stag party. They were drunkenly shouting at each other when they boarded and got progressively drunker and louder throughout the flight.

The cabin crew were only too happy to keep serving them as well, despite the clear annoyance of other passengers towards the group.

Fighting in the aisles

Which? Travel recently asked readers if they’d been witness to any alcohol-fuelled misbehavior on flights, and some of the responses were shocking.

One reader told us they’d witnessed people fighting each other in the aisles and then turning on cabin crew when they tried to intervene.

Another where a flight had to be diverted, flying passengers hundreds of miles out of their way, in order to offload one violent, out-of-control individual.

Pissed passengers

And it’s not just anecdotal evidence: the statistics show disruptive incidents on flights have have shot up recently.

When we asked our readers, one in ten said they’d experienced shouting, drunkenness, obnoxiousness, verbal abuse or other bad behaviour by fellow passengers in the last year.

Our survey found that a whopping 17% of Ryanair passengers had experienced some form of bad behaviour – some other airlines were almost just as bad for drunk and disorderly passengers.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), there were 417 disruptive incidents on flights in 2017; way up from 186 in the previous prior four years combined. And 2018 was on coarse to be even higher.

And the shocking thing is these statistics are only for the most serious incidents, where flight crew felt there was a threat to the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.

Airline double standards

It’s in airlines’ financial interests to sell passengers as much booze as possible, and it seems that much of the time this is precisely what they do (perhaps without considering the consequences).

One Which? Travel reader recalled a flight where his neighbour bought and downed four vodkas and then became aggressive when staff, finally, refused to serve him any more.

As a flight attendant whistleblower told our investigations team: airlines often only pay ‘lip service’ to reducing drinking on flights – while in reality encourage staff to push alcohol sales.

EasyJet responded that its staff work to a ‘serve responsibly’ policy, meaning they monitor consumption and refuse to serve anyone who’s drunk. It didn’t give us a figure for how much training staff are given to deal with disruptive passengers but said its ‘appropriate’ and ‘robust’ and refreshed each year.

What are your experiences of drunk and disorderly passengers on flights? And does more need to be done to tackle the behavior? Is banning alcohol on flights outright a solution? Or do you think it’s down to passengers to limit themselves?


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I’m not exactly a frequent flyer and usually only fly for business purposes.

I don’t recollect noticing any recent instances where excessive alcohol resulted in passengers behaving badly.

Might that be because Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh aren’t exactly the most favoured destinations for stag parties and such like?

I presume that the problems of alcohol and bad behaviour relate to holidaymakers. Almost all of the flights I’ve taken were for work purposes and I cannot remember any problems.

I have been on European flights where there was some boisterous behaviour – unpleasant but not intolerable on a short flight. Flying on tour operators’ planes or charter flights seems to be worse than on scheduled services.

I guess when there are all-men or all-women parties flying together to popular destinations a certain amount of pre-loading takes place in the air-side bars at the airport. That’s where the problem should be tackled so that the aircrew are not subjected to uncontrollable behaviour. Cheap flights, cheap booze, and general excitement are a bad mix.

We travel mainly by train and have an iron-clad rule about never, ever using Ryanair, anyway, so life for us has largely been a haven of peace and quiet. But we used to take a lot of of flights and never experienced any rowdiness.

I was on an Easyjet flight from Gatwick to Alicante on a Thursday evening on October 2017. It is perfectly understandable that there will be stag and hen do groups having a good time. There is no reason to stop that. However, many people in these groups were so drunk when boarding the plane that the crew had to announce that the bar would not open. Surely the staff at the boarding gates have a responsibility to prevent drunk people from boarding the plane rather than just transferring the problem to the cabin crew and other passengers.

I completely agree, Rangerpuss. I also think we owe it to the good citizens of Budapest and Prague, etc, not to export our drunken louts [many of whom seem to be middle-aged] to their fine cities.

Phil says:
15 January 2019

Raucous hen party on a RyanAir flight to Dublin a few years ago. It transpired they were police officers.

Got my own back on one though. Passports were being thrown around one of which landed at my feet. Placing one foot over it and denying I’d seen it caused some panic to the owner until I eventually “found” it.

I’m a million mile flyer on United Airlines and a very frequent flyer on BA. I have never, in 60 years of flying, witnessed a single incident that concerned me. Obviously things happen, but there are so many flights that the odds of being affected by it are small.