11 December 2022

Holiday-goers urged to stay on AFP's nice list in our airports

| Claire Fenwicke
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AFP patrols

AFP patrols will be ramped up at Canberra Airport during the festive season. Photo: AFP Media.

As more of us prepare to fly to see family and friends this festive season, the AFP will be cracking down on drunken behaviour in our airports.

Between November 2021 and November 2022, officers responded to more than 800 alcohol-related incidents at the country’s major airports in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns and Perth.

At Canberra Airport in the same period, the AFP charged 14 people with 16 offences relating to prohibited items (weapons or other items at screening points), drug offences, property offences (thefts) and unruly behaviour (drunk in a public place).

Officer patrols will be boosted at these airports as the number of people passing through terminal doors also increases.

Canines will also be on the sniff for cash, drugs, firearms and technological devices.

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AFP Acting Superintendent John Wong warned people not to kick off the new year with a date with police.

“The AFP will take action against intoxicated members of the public who are disruptive, violent or threatening,” he said.

“It would not be a great start to 2023 with a court appearance or a visit to the watchhouse.”

He said while an “overwhelming majority” of travellers in our airports were co-operative with police and airport staff, there were those who caught the attention of the authorities.

“We have seen an increase in alcohol-related incidents in and around our nine major airports,” Act Supt Wong said.

“It’s a great time of the year, it’s a time when people are preparing to go on holidays and reconnect with family and friends … but [we] have zero tolerance for bad or disruptive behaviour.”

Travellers have been asked to be mindful of how much they drink at airports, with Civil Aviation Safety Authority CEO Pip Spence warning bad or unruly behaviour on aircrafts could put both crew and other passengers at risk.

“Remember everyone is trying to do their best during the busiest time of the year – and it’s against the law to behave in a disorderly, unruly or disruptive manner on board a plane,” she said.

“We want to ensure that everyone flying this Christmas – from passengers to the crew – gets to travel and work this festive season in a safe, secure and protected environment.”

Act Supt Wong acknowledged frustrations could also flare due to unexpected delays, but urged everyone to be respectful.

“Just treat the staff and police officers as we would like to be treated in our workplaces,” he said.

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Safety will be front of mind for officers, as 330 alleged offenders have been charged with 420 offences at our nation’s airports between May and October of this year.

This included one man accused of firing a gun inside Canberra Airport earlier this year.

Act Supt Wong reassured the public they shouldn’t worry as they travelled.

“Those types of incidents are rare, especially in the aviation environment,” he said.

If you do see or hear something unusual while working or travelling through one of the nation’s major airports, you can contact Airport Watch on 131 AFP (131 237).

Suspicious activity or unusual behaviour includes:

  • A person displaying an unusually keen interest in security procedures
  • A person recording or taking photos in or around sensitive areas of the airport
  • Anyone acting strangely or in an unusual manner
  • Anyone heard asking questions to gain information about the airport
  • Anyone trying to gain unauthorised access to secure areas

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