The AFP has charged 49 travellers in separate incidents at Australia’s major airports as part of an operation targeting illegal behaviour during the busy holiday season.
AFP officers stationed at nine major airports across the country charged the 49 people with 69 offences including alleged assault, drug possession and weapon offences during the 2022/2023 Christmas and school holiday travel period.
The operation – codenamed Operation Sleigh – aimed to crack down on offensive, disruptive and illegal behaviour in the air and on the ground.
Another 24 people were handed infringement notices for intoxication, offensive and disorderly behaviour, creating a disturbance and failing to comply with directions from airline staff over the same period (20 December, 2022 to 29 January, 2023).
Incidents the AFP responded to during the Operation Sleigh included:
- A 78-year-old woman was issued with a notice to appear before court, after an alleged assault on board a flight from New Zealand to the Gold Coast on 29 January, 2023. The woman allegedly struck another passenger in the face during an argument on board the aircraft and then bit the arm of a flight attendant who had intervened in the dispute. The woman is scheduled to appear in court on 3 April, 2023.
- AFP officers issued a 47-year-old man with an infringement notice for alleged disorderly behaviour and causing a disruption on board a flight forced to turn back to Sydney on 10 January, 2023. It is alleged the man consumed duty-free spirits and became intoxicated before verbally abusing other passengers and airline staff.
- AFP officers responded after a 41-year-old Australian man allegedly consumed 700mls of duty-free scotch on an international flight from New Zealand to Sydney on 9 January, 2023. The man lost consciousness and allegedly became verbally abusive towards airline staff upon landing. AFP officers organised the man to be taken to hospital for medical care. The alcohol was not purchased on board the flight.
- A 42-year-old NSW woman was charged with disorderly conduct after an alleged incident at Gold Coast Airport on 8 January, 2023. AFP officers intervened after the woman allegedly refused to leave a Melbourne-bound flight due to intoxication. AFP officers attempted to persuade the woman to leave the aircraft but she refused and was arrested and removed. The woman is scheduled to face Southport Magistrates’ Court on 20 March, 2023.
The targeted operation during the holiday season was sparked after the AFP responded to about 20,000 incidents at AFP-protected airports across Australia last year.
The AFP charged more than 360 people with about 520 offences at airports during 2022.
AFP Commander Geoff Turner said an increase in bad passenger behaviour had been identified during Operation Sleigh, compared to the same holiday period last year.
The AFP charged 28 people with 49 offences during the same period of the 2021-22 summer school holidays. Another 16 people were issued with infringement notices for a range of incidents including intoxication, smoking in aircrafts and traffic offences around the airport.
“In recent months we have seen thousands more passengers travelling through airports across Australia, as state and international borders reopened after the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions,” Commander Turner said.
“The AFP was more than prepared to manage the expected spike in passenger numbers, with increased patrols resulting in teams responding to a range of incidents to assist the travelling public across the country.
Commander Turner said the AFP would continue to focus on keeping the public safe by cracking down on bad passenger behaviour throughout 2023.
“We have more than 500 AFP officers, including specialised teams and canines, keeping watch to protect the travelling public across all of Australia’s biggest airports,” Commander Turner said.
“Most people do the right thing and they should not have their travel disrupted or feel unsafe because of the minority’s bad behaviour.
“We again remind the public that airports are not nightclubs. We have zero tolerance for abusive and aggressive behaviour at airports and on aircraft.
“Passengers who are convicted of an act of violence at an airport or endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight face serious penalties.”
Offenders can face up to 20 years’ imprisonment. If you require police presence at an airport, or wish to report an incident or provide information please call the AFP’s Airport Watch on 131 AFP (131 237).