Airlines demand tighter alcohol controls

More cases of disruptive behaviour on planes have increased the prospect of tighter controls on the sale of alcohol at Britain’s airports.

Calls for airport bars, shops and restaurants to be subject to the same alcohol laws as the rest of the UK are growing after the release of new figures on incidences of disruptive passengers.

The Civil Aviation Authority received more than 200 such reports between January and the peak holiday period in mid-July, with 417 and 415 across all of 2017 and 2016 respectively. In 2015, there were 195 reports.

As around half of the cases are thought to involve alcohol, industry body Airlines UK said it was time to remove the current exemption for airports from the 2003 Licensing Act.

Duty-free alcohol

Leading airlines have been vocal in their demands for tougher action. They include Jet2, which recently had to divert a Birmingham-to-Ibiza flight due to “appalling and aggressive behaviour” from members of a stag party. Police met the aircraft in Toulouse and offloaded the group.

EasyJet wants to make the consumption of duty-free alcohol on planes a criminal offence, while Ryanair has called for airports to ban the sale of alcohol before 10am and limit the number of drinks per boarding pass to a maximum of two.

The campaign for changes in licensing laws is backed by the Institute of Alcohol Studies, whose Fit to Fly report found as many as 60% of adults have encountered drunk passengers whilst on a flight.

The study also recommended that duty-free alcohol bought in a shop is sent directly to the departure gate in a sealed container, or placed directly in the hold.

Home Office consultation

The Home Office is expected to launch a consultation on whether to amend the Licensing Act in relation to airports. It could give local authorities the power to restrict the timing of alcohol sales, or the ability to close down bars.

The Airport Operators Association believes an industry code of practice and the launch of its One Too Many campaign are the best ways to tackle the “small minority of passengers that are disruptive”.

One Too Many has been live in ten UK airports this summer, highlighting the costs of drinking to excess when travelling by air. These include heavy fines, up to two years in prison, an airline ban and a diversion fee up to £80,000 for the most serious in-flight incidents.