Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201800051
Date reported 22 May 2018
Concern title Intoxicated passengers regularly observed on [operator] flights into Cairns, Qld.
Concern summary

The concern related to the lack of cabin crew diligence in relation to the responsible service of alcohol and perfunctory cabin safety checks.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Air transport
Concern subject type Aviation: Policies & Procedures

Reporter's concern

The reporter states that the level of intoxication of some passengers, resultant disruptive behaviour, the lack of cabin crew diligence in relation to the responsible service of alcohol, and perfunctory cabin safety checks poses a significant safety risk, particularly in an emergency situation.

The reporter advised that on one flight, two passengers were first served alcohol immediately after the cabin seatbelt sign was extinguished and had admitted to the cabin crew that they had consumed alcohol prior to boarding. The reporter estimates that they were served between four and six cans of beer during the 3.5 hour flight. On approach to Cairns, the reporter observed that one of the two intoxicated passengers did not have his seatbelt fastened and it was hanging down alongside the seat in clear view as the cabin crew were completing their pre-landing checks. During the taxi, both passengers got up from their seats to visit the toilet and whilst the cabin crew asked them to be seated, it was done in a joking way and made to seem like the matter was unimportant.

The reporter further advises that they travel with [operator] to Cairns regularly and in the past six months has observed passengers not wearing a seatbelt on three separate occasions. On each occasion, cabin crew either failed to detect this despite being in clear view, or chose to disregard it. In addition, the reporter states they have been physically threatened by an intoxicated passenger when disembarking for moving forward in the aisle so that he was in front of that passenger’s row of seats, and witnessed intoxicated passengers intimidate an elderly passenger seated in front of them for reclining seats or asking them to stop banging the tray table repeatedly.

The reporter believes that [operator] is creating an unsafe situation by serving alcohol to passengers, who are clearly intoxicated. Some of these passengers go on to be disruptive and/or wilfully disobey safety directions, the result of which has obvious safety implications.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

[Operator] is acutely aware of its responsibility to both passengers and crew in relation to the intoxication of passengers and the service of alcohol on board all flights.

All cabin crew who operate on [operator] aircraft (regardless of nationality) are required to have completed a responsible service of alcohol course prior to being able to operate on-board. Recently all domestic cabin crew completed refresher training on their duties and responsibilities in relation to the service of alcohol on-board. This training also looked at the various alcoholic beverages for sale on board, and the average standard drinks contained within each of these items. This training is now being rolled out to all international cabin crew. In addition, local legislation in New Zealand for example, requires all cabin managers to have completed a manager’s course and hold a valid Alcohol License issued by local authorities.

Cabin crew are required to comply at all times with the policy and procedures contained within [operator’s] operating manual suite. Specifically, the Cabin Crew Policy and Procedure Manual (Operations Manual – number) states:

It is the express policy of [operator] to:

  • Prohibit intoxicated persons entering any [operator] aircraft;
  • Not serve alcohol to any passenger to the point of intoxication;
  • Not serve or supply alcohol to any passengers under the age of 18;
  • Discourage intoxicated, disruptive or violent behaviour occurring on [operator] aircraft;
  • Minimise any risk of harm to passengers as a result of our service of alcohol;
  • Create an environment that discourages drunken, disruptive or violent behaviour; and
  • Not encourage rapid or excessive consumption of alcohol through the service of excess alcohol to passengers (i.e. serving multiple drinks to one passenger at any one time).

In addition, the current edition of the company’s monthly safety bulletin (which is distributed to all staff) is focused on the topic of security. A specific section related to unruly behaviour is highlighted below.

CABIN SAFETY CHECKS

Cabin Crew Policy and Procedure Manual (document number) states:

Civil Aviation Orders (CAOs) state there are specific requirements for the cabin and galleys that need to be satisfied before take-off and landing. This is facilitated by conducting the ‘Cabin and Galley Secure Check’.

A Cabin Secure Check must be conducted:

  • Prior to each take-off.
  • Prior to each landing.
  • Any time the Seat Belt sign is illuminated during flight (provided this does not compromise the safety of cabin crew during turbulent conditions).

As part of the Cabin Secure Check requirements, Section [number] states that each passenger must have a seat belt, including infants. The seat belt must be untwisted, fastened securely and adjusted to ensure there is no slack. The cabin crew and cabin manager are responsible for ensuring that these procedures are carried out on every flight.

The information provided in the report does not provide sufficient information for [operator] to be able to follow up specifically with crew members involved, as no flight details including flight number and dates were provided.

We would encourage that should the reporter observe any instances in the future to report the matter immediately to the Cabin Manager or to contact [operator] at [web link]. This link contains a feedback form where safety and security related concerns can be raised directly.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

CASA has reviewed the REPCON and provides the following comments:

  • CASA’s Certificate Team Manager responsible for the oversight of [operator] had arranged a meeting with key [operator] personnel on Friday 29 June 2018 to discuss this event. Unfortunately, the meeting was cancelled because of the demands on [operator] associated with managing their [location] flights during the eruption of Mt Agung;
  • CASA intends to discuss the matters raised in the REPCON with [operator] flight operations management when they become available;
  • [Operator] have had some recent issues with passengers being unruly and intoxicated. However, [operator] have introduced mitigators to control these issues, and to date they have been effective; and
  • CASA does not regulate the consumption of alcohol for passenger services. However, it does monitor [operator’s] programs that facilitate safe and compliant flight operations, including the in-flight management of passengers.
Last update 15 March 2019