18 December 2023

Police ramp up presence in Canberra Airport to prepare for 'increase in frustrated passengers' over Christmas

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Canberra Airport concourse with Christmas tree

While most trips to Canberra Airport are trouble-free, nine people were charged with 12 offences at the airport in the past financial year. Photo: Canberra Airport Facebook.

If you’re travelling from Canberra Airport this Christmas, expect to see more police officers and sniffer dogs on patrol.

The AFP is ramping up its presence in airports across the country to provide additional protection and assistance to travellers during the busy season, and reminding travellers that bad behaviour is never tolerated.

Detective Inspector Tanja Catalinac, the officer in charge of Canberra Airport, said the increase in police presence followed a series of incidents at airport terminals and on board aircraft across the country.

“This year, we’ve seen an increase in frustrated passengers at airports, some of which is due to intoxication, impatience or people who were stressed because they hadn’t prepared properly,” she said.

In Canberra, nine people were charged with 12 offences at the airport in the past financial year.

“These matters relate to disruptive and abusive behaviour and traffic offences to the thousands of passengers preparing to travel through Canberra Airport.”

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The high visibility patrols coincide with an expected increase in passenger numbers as people travel across the country and offshore throughout December and January.

The patrols will target intoxication, offensive and disruptive behaviour, both in the air and on the ground, as well as possession of prohibited drugs and weapons, which attract a term of imprisonment of up to 20 years if convicted.

More than 500 members, including police dogs, will participate in this operational activity as a preventative measure.

“These specialised dogs are trained to detect explosives, cash, drugs, firearms and devices, and help search luggage to ensure travel is not being used to facilitate crime,” Detective Inspector Catalinac said.

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Detective Inspector Catalinac urged travellers to remember poor behaviour can impact everyone around them this festive season.

“Please be prepared, be patient and polite at airports and with staff,” she said.

“I want to reinforce the AFP has zero tolerance for bad behaviour at airports and onboard aircraft. Bad behaviour can delay flights, lead to bans in traveling, and may result in criminal charges.”

She understood sometimes travel does not go to plan, but said passengers should be prepared, patient and polite to ensure the journey was more enjoyable for everyone.

The AFP has released tips on how holidaymakers can travel safely and without incident over the Christmas period.

These tips and advice include:

  • If available, save time by checking in online or via an airline’s app;
  • When possible, use apps to check traffic conditions on your normal route to the airport to give yourself enough time to arrive and check-in luggage;
  • If parking at an airport car park, consider pre-booking, or if travelling by public transport/ride share or taxi, also consider pre-booking;
  • Before you pack your check-in luggage, be aware of weight conditions without further cost and be aware of any potential restrictions, ie lithium batteries and other dangerous goods);
  • If travelling with children, consider packing extra food or activities to entertain them, given busy times could mean longer times waiting in lines;
  • Each airport may have different processes when going through security screening. Please be patient and follow directions.

The AFP is also reminding the public to report all suspicious activity or unusual behaviour at airports. Call 131 237 (131 AFP) to report an incident.

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All of these tips are great and people need to take responsibility for their behaviour.

At the same time, the airlines should be contributing to the cost of this as there is no doubt that some passengers’ existing stress is exacerbated by the airlines’ dismissal of the needs of their customers, by delaying and cancelling flights with no support or compensation when they do so. This puts passengers on edge, may explain, but does not justify poor behaviour.

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