Airport Arrests

Published by: Bounce30 September, 2022

From drunk and disorderly behavior to airport assaults, there are thousands of arrests at airports across the UK every year. But which airport is home to the highest number of arrests, and what are the most common offenses?

Through the power of the Freedom of Information Act, this report has revealed the airports which observed the most arrests from 2019 through to 2021 and has detailed the most common offenses which lead to arrests in some of the UK’s biggest airports.

Doncaster Sheffield

47.66 arrests per 1,000,000 passengers

Total Arrests 2019-2021: 98

Total Passengers 2019-2021: 2,056,203

Arrests by year

2019: 67

2020: 19

2021: 12

Doncaster Sheffield Airport saw a rate of 47.66 arrests per million passengers from 2019-2021, making it the airport with the highest arrests rate on this list. Just over 2 million passengers flew to or from Doncaster Sheffield over these three years, and 98 passengers were arrested at the airport.

The most common offenses at Doncaster Sheffield Airport included shoplifting, theft, and assault without injury. 

Birmingham

36.61 arrests per 1,000,000 passengers

Total Arrests 2019-2021: 659 

Total Passengers 2019-2021: 18,002,619

Arrests by year:

2019: 385

2020: 154

2021: 120

At Birmingham Airport there were 659 arrests recorded from 2019 to 2021, and 18 million passengers. This equates to a rate of 36.61 arrests per million passengers, the second highest on this list. 

Birmingham Airport's most common arrest offense across the three years was warrant related arrests. Assault and theft-related offenses were the next most common reasons for arrest at Birmingham Airport. 

Leeds Bradford

31.37 arrests per 1,000,000 passengers

Total Arrests 2019-2021: 172 

Total Passengers 2019-2021: 3,992,862


Arrests by year: 

2019: 99

2020: 39

2021: 34

Leeds Bradford Airport saw a total of 172 arrests made over the years 2019 to 2021. With just shy of 4 million passengers arriving and departing from this airport over the same period, Leeds Bradford earns an arrest per million passenger rate of 31.37.

The most common offense at Leeds Bradford Airport relates to violence against another person, followed by miscellaneous crimes against society, and fraud. 

Heathrow Airport

3,262 total arrests

Total Visitors: 122,395,243

Arrests per 1,000,000 passengers: 26.65


Arrests by year:

2019: 1,363

2020: 931

2021: 968

Heathrow Airport in London has seen a significant number of arrests over the three years from 2019-2021. A total of 3,262 arrests have been recorded, with 2019 seeing the most number of arrests at 1,363. This is more arrests in one year than most airports have seen across all three years studied. 

Between 2019-2021, the most common reasons for arrest at Heathrow Airport included the failure to surrender to police, or the failure to appear in court bail at the appointed time. Assault causing actual bodily harm was also common across all years. 

Gatwick Airport

1,510 arrests

Total Visitors: 63,011,718

Arrests per 1,000,000 passengers: 23.96


Arrests by year:

2019: 791

2020: 372

2021: 347

Gatwick Airport comes in second place for the highest number of arrests between 2019-2021, with over 1,500 recorded arrests. Gatwick saw its peak in 2019 with a total of 791 annual arrests at the airport. 

Across the three years studied, the most common arrests were again made for failures to appear in court. This could suggest that people who are due to appear in court are making their way to the airport to escape justice. Drunk and disorderly offenses also rank in the top five reasons for arrests at Gatwick Airport, with 97 arrests made for this offense between 2019 and 2021. 

Birmingham Airport

659 arrests

Total Visitors: 18,002,619

Arrests per 1,000,000 passengers: 36.61


Arrests by year: 

2019: 385

2020: 154

2021: 120

At Birmingham Airport there were 659 arrests recorded from 2019 to 2021, with 385 occurring during 2019. This makes Birmingham the airport with the third highest number of arrests during this time. 

Similarly to our previous two airports, Birmingham Airport's most common arrest offense was warrant related. Assault and theft-related offenses were also common reasons for arrest, while drunk and disorderly arrests totaled 29 over the three years. 

Meanwhile, in the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) catalogs reports and investigations into unruly passenger behavior. The FAA will often issue fines against passengers who act inappropriately, and in 2021 the FAA proposed $5 million in fines against unruly passengers.

In 2021, there were 5,981 reports of unruly behavior on American flights. There were also a whopping 4,290 mask-related incidents reported. Of this, 1,113 investigations were initiated by the FAA and 350 enforcement actions were carried out.

Methodology


All UK data was retrieved via Freedom of Information requests to the relevant police forces serving each mainland airport. Unfortunately, not all police forces in the UK were able to provide the necessary data. Police Scotland did not provide any data for any Scottish airports. Only mainland airports were considered. 

It should be noted that for all data, arrests may not have necessarily occurred inside the airports but could have occurred in the nearby area. 

Passenger numbers were taken from Wikipedia.

US unruly passenger data was retrieved directly from the FAA website. 

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