Australian airlines and airports have launched a major campaign to curb disruptive and abusive behaviour towards airline crews, airport teams and other passengers.
The “No more carry on” campaign calls for patience and preparedness as travellers navigate a return to widespread flying while managing COVID-19-related requirements.
The campaign, supported by the Australian Federal Police and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, follows an increase in disruptive and abusive behaviour, with hundreds of incidents reported across the airlines in 2021, many triggered by a refusal to follow mask requirements.
In extreme cases, crew have been threatened and physically assaulted by passengers.
The penalties are severe, with a maximum of 10 years jail for assault and the cost of diversion of the aircraft if required.
In 2018, a court forced a disruptive passenger to pay the $26,000 it cost to divert a flight to Brisbane back to Perth.
In 2012, a passenger was fined $120,000 for the cost of diverting a Sydney to Tokyo flight to Cairns.
The new awareness campaign plays on the concept that while carry-on luggage is welcome, disruptive or abusive “carry-on behaviour” will not be tolerated.
Airports in capital cities and regional centres around the country will display digital billboards throughout terminals and a powerful video message from airline crew will be shared on social channels.
Jetstar, Qantas, Rex and Virgin Australia have also signed up to a voluntary Code of Practice on Passenger Behaviour, which ensures a consistent approach across aviation in Australia.
The key elements of the Code of Practice include:
• Refusing to allow a customer to board, where necessary, to protect fellow passengers and crew from offensive or disruptive behaviour.
• Holding passengers who are offensive or disruptive accountable for their behaviour, including recouping costs for diversions and damage to the aircraft and imposing bans on future travel.
• Airlines and airports proactively engage with law enforcement and CASA to support any administrative or criminal sanctions against a passenger found to have engaged in offensive or disruptive conduct.
Qantas Group executive and chief executive of the Jetstar Group, Gareth Evans, said “over the next few months, millions of Australians will be heading off on holidays or to see family and our teams are here to help customers navigate the new travel requirements, like masks and border declarations, which are now in place across the country.
“While the vast majority of passengers do the right thing, unfortunately as with the hospitality and retail industries, we have seen an increase in the number of people behaving badly.
“At airports and on aircraft, critical safety procedures must be followed. There is no room for disruptive behaviour and we will act quickly to stop unruliness to ensure everyone remains safe.”
AFP acting assistant commissioner specialist protective command Andrea Quinn said “it is an ideal time to revive and strengthen security measures at Australia’s airports as more people start to travel over the festive season”.
“The AFP has zero-tolerance for any dangerous or antisocial behaviour and works tirelessly to ensure the safety of the travelling community,” he said.
“So as you head off on a well-deserved break these holidays – please remember – the silly season does not extend to behaviour in airports.”