It’s been a rocky couple of years for Ryanair, with cancelled flights and ever-changing luggage restrictions leaving holidaymakers fuming. And now, the budget airline has been named the worst when it comes to disruptive passengers on flights.
Nearly one in six Ryanair passengers (17%) said they have been on a flight with a disruptive passenger in the last year, according to a new survey of almost 8,000 passengers by consumer watchdog Which?.
This comes after a video went viral showing a white man refusing to sit next to a black passenger on a Ryanair flight, leading to many calling for a boycott of the airline due to the way the incident was handled by staff.
Ryanair topped the Which? rankings for disruptive passengers, with Thomas Cook and TUI coming in second and third with 15% and 14% of passengers reporting disruptive behaviour on their flights, and easyJet ranked fourth (12%).
[Read More: Is the UK’s Love Affair With Ryanair Finally Over?]
Overall, one in 10 airline passengers reported that they had experienced a flight blighted by shouting, drunkenness, verbal abuse or other obnoxious behaviour.
Which? heard from one holidaymaker who said an enraged fellow passenger had to be “wrestled to the floor” by an off-duty policeman when they were refused more alcohol after downing four vodkas. Another passenger told of a flight from Newcastle to Alicante where a drunken stag party tried to set fire to a seat cover.
The results raise concerns about how effectively airlines are managing troublesome passengers, particularly those who are drunk on board.
Problems seem to be increasing. On average, there were 186 disruptive passenger incidents a year on flights between 2012 and 2016. In 2017, that number had jumped to 417, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Airlines have acknowledged the issue. However, the approach of some carriers to tackling problem passengers doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
EasyJet has previously said that the consumption of duty-free alcohol on planes, which is already banned by airlines, should be a criminal offence.
However, an easyJet flight attendant told Which? that cabin crew are rewarded for selling the most alcohol and that training on dealing with disruptive passengers lasted just two to four hours.
The staff member also claimed that they had been groped by drunk passengers, and that reporting disruptive behaviour when the aircraft lands often mean hours of sitting around waiting to fill in additional paperwork – time which is unpaid.
Ryanair recently announced it was calling for new restrictions on serving alcohol at airports, including a two-drink limit per passenger and no alcohol sales before 10am.
Yet in the same week, the airline also tweeted an image of an apparently paralytic young man lying on a beach with an empty bottle at his side. The caption to the photo included the approving tagline: “this could be you”.
The tweet has since been deleted.
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said airlines need to take more responsibility for preventing passengers having too many drinks.
“People should be able to take a flight without having to worry about their trip being disrupted or journey diverted by rowdy passengers who have had one too many,” he said.
In response to its flight attendant’s claims, easyJet said staff work to a ‘serve responsibly’ policy, meaning they monitor consumption and refuse to serve anyone who’s drunk. But it confirmed it does run ‘on-board sales incentives’ for all products sold, not just alcohol.
The airline didn’t provide a figure for how much training staff are given to deal with disruptive passengers but said the training was “appropriate” and “robust”, and refreshed each year. It said that it encourages staff to report incidents and claims they are able to do this when on board the flight or immediately afterwards, while still being paid.
HuffPost UK contacted Ryanair for comment and is awaiting response.