A shocking report has exposed that almost four in ten flight attendants have experienced physical abuse at the hands of passengers who were under the influence of drink or drugs.

A survey of 100 UK flight attendants found that a 38 per cent had experienced physical abuse from passengers in the past year.

The report by insurers Direct Line found cabin crew who had received verbal abuse from passengers was even higher, at 46 per cent.

The respondents blamed the horrific incidents on the amount of passengers who were self-medicating, with 33 per cent describing a significant increase in incidents of travellers abusing substances on flights.

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Painkillers and prescription drugs are among the substances listed as most responsible for this unacceptable behaviour from passengers.

Crew reporting abuse from passengers under the influence of alcohol was only marginally less, with 28 per cent declaring physical abuse.

7.5 per cent had suffered sexual harassment from intoxicated passengers.

"It is shocking to see the scale of abuse flight attendants are forced to endure as they are trapped onboard with self-medicated and drunken passengers behaving erratically and inappropriately," said Direct Line's Tom Bishop.

Another concern raised by staff was for passengers who were so intoxicated as to become a danger to themselves. The attendants said they were worried about an estimated 5 per cent of passengers who would be too imapaired to respond to instructions or evacuate a plane in an emergency.

The Direct Line Survey interviewed 100 UK flight staff and over 2000 passengers, finding that harassment of staff and substance abuse was common place.

The availability of drink and drugs to holidaymakers and other travellers is a growing problem for staff who have to deal with them.

Crew described a significant increase in passengers abusing substances on flights. Photo / Getty Images
Crew described a significant increase in passengers abusing substances on flights. Photo / Getty Images

Of the passengers quizzed about their habits, many claim they self-medicate to help their nerves while flying. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills were commonly abused, along with sleeping tablets.

"Passengers often don't know how they will react in the air, due to a combination of the effects of medication, alcohol and changes in air pressure," said Bishop.

"While everyone wants an enjoyable journey, people need to moderate their drinking when flying to ensure they are always in control and only take prescribed medication in the correct dosage."

Recently IATA reported there was an incident of an unruly passenger for almost every 1000 flights.

Currently in New Zealand unruly passengers can face fines of up to $1000 and possible imprisonment for an offense.