More than 400 airline passengers have been arrested on suspicion of being drunk in the past two years, an investigation has found.
Drunken travellers who sexually abused staff, urinated in public and were too intoxicated to fasten their seatbelts were among those held, police data obtained by the PA news agency shows.
Figures obtained following freedom of information requests show at least 245 people were arrested on suspicion of being drunk at an airport in Britain between April 1 2017 and March 31 2019.
For the police forces that gave information, a further 204 arrests were made relating to alleged drunkenness on planes.
Passengers convicted of being drunk on an aircraft face a maximum fine of £5,000 or up to two years’ imprisonment.
The sale of alcohol once a passenger has passed through security at international airports in England and Wales is not regulated by licensing laws.
This means rules intended to stop sales to drunk customers and prevent irresponsible promotions do not apply to them.
A Home Office consultation on whether legislation should be amended closed in February, but no decision has been announced.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, described the arrest figures as “ridiculous” and demanded the introduction of new laws to reduce the number of passengers who drink too much before and during flights.
He said: “There is no credible reason we’ve heard – other than commercial gain – why airport bars and duty free are not licensed in the same way as any pub or restaurant on the high street.
“Likewise, why are duty-free shops still able to sell miniature bottles of alcohol, including at the airport gate? We know miniatures are sold for one reason only – to encourage immediate consumption, including on the plane.”
The ages of those detained ranged from 20 to 58.
At Bristol Airport, one passenger was arrested on suspicion of being drunk on an aircraft and sexually assaulting female crew while another was found urinating in a walkway en route to a plane.
One woman was arrested on an aircraft at Newcastle Airport after she allegedly became so drunk she was unable to fasten her own seatbelt and swore at cabin crew.
In another episode, a 25-year-old man who had been drinking in a bar at Leeds Bradford Airport while waiting for a delayed Ryanair flight was arrested when he “became abusive” in front of families after being denied boarding, police said.
Requests for information were sent to the 16 forces which cover Britain’s 20 busiest airports.
The most arrests on aircraft or at airports were made at the UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow (103).
This was followed by Gatwick (81), Glasgow (47) and Liverpool (40).
The true numbers of drunk passengers arrested will almost certainly be higher as three forces – including Greater Manchester Police – did not provide figures within the time limit.
A request was also sent to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, but this was rejected on the grounds of cost.