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The number of passengers arrested for being drunk and disorderly on flights or at UK airports soared by 50 per cent in the last year.
A BBC investigation revealed more than half of cabin crew staff had dealt with disruptive drunk passengers; with some saying they had been groped by customers who had been drinking.
The results of the investigation have sparked calls for the Government to introduce tougher rules on the sales of alcohol.
Eighteen UK police forces with a major airport on their patch revealed that, in the last year, 387 passengers were arrested for drunken behaviour – up from 255 the previous year.
Ally Murphy, a former Virgin Airlines cabin crew manager, told Panorama: “People just see us as barmaids in the sky.
“I was pulled into an upper-class bed by a passenger who was feeling particularly lucky I guess. They would touch your breasts, or they’d touch your bum or your legs, or I mean I’ve had hands going up my skirt before.
“It’s rage inducing, and you shouldn’t have to deal with that.
“I guess I never reported it to the police because sadly, and this is completely wrong and only really occurring to me now, you kind of just accept it as part of the job. And it shouldn’t be.”
Another cabin crew member, who was unnamed in the programme, said airline workers had found “countless” litre bottles of vodka and they felt that Alicante, Ibiza, Palma were among the worst routes.
Alexandra Wilms, of the Balearic Ministry of Tourism, called for “high fines” to try and deal with the problem and accused “these kinds of people” of not being able to “understand any other thing than really getting punished by paying a lot of money”.
But Airport Operators’ Association chief executive Karen Dee rejected suggestions airports are irresponsibly selling alcohol.
Ms Dee said: “The sale of alcohol per se is not a problem. It’s the misuse of it and drinking to excess and then behaving badly.”
The UK aviation industry brought in a voluntary code a year ago which recommends that airports and airlines should work together to limit disruptive behaviour and sell alcohol responsibly.
Airlines can already limit the amount of alcohol sold to passengers on board flights but Airlines UK, which represents major UK carriers, wants the government to make it illegal for passenger’s to consume their own alcohol on-board.
Earlier this year, a House of Lords committee called for tougher rules on the sale of alcohol at airports and the Home Office told the BBC it was considering recommendations “and will respond in due course”.
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