Airlines Want Friendlier Skies

Virgin Atlantic Airways has joined a growing list of airlines calling for an international database to track unruly or dangerous passengers in order to ban them from boarding flights.

"Airlines and holiday companies worldwide must act together to ground for life anyone who acts violently" said Virgin Atlantic Airways Chairman Richard Branson. "It needs draconian measures like that to make people think twice before they behave in that manner on planes."

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are among a group of international airlines working with the International Air Transport Association to introduce a register of known offenders.

Brason's comments came after an incident last Friday during which a drunken passenger attacked a flight attendant with a bottle of vodka on a British charter flight to Spain.

British Airtours flight attendant Fiona Weir, 31, was hit over the head and slashed with a broken vodka bottle. Steven Handy, the alleged attacker, was released on bail from custody by Spanish magistrates in Malaga after being charged with assault and endangering an aircraft.

Branson has joined Airtours in banning Handy from his airline.

Besides verbally abusing crew members or others, passengers have been accused of:

  • Trying to smoke on non-smoking flights
  • Trying to break into the cockpit
  • Trying to open cabin doors or window exits in flight
Over-served passengers are a big part of the problem, but Branson and the airlines say banning unruly passengers for life would be easier than ending cocktail service.

In August, British Airways launched a "yellow card" warning system. The airline hands out notices telling offenders they could face arrest on touchdown and be liable for costs if their behavior forces the aircraft to divert to the nearest airport.

The airline reported that it dealt with 260 disruptive passengers last year, mostly for breaches of the no-smoking rules.