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Survey finds 1 in 5 wants alcohol ban at airports

Most of us enjoy a drink at the airport while we’re waiting for our flight. In fact, it’s almost seen as a ritual; the pre-flight drink that signals the start of our holiday. Unfortunately, for some, a pre-flight drink turns to many and can cause problems for passengers and flight crews on flights.

Looking for ways to tackle problems caused by excessive drinking in airports and flights, the aviation minister, Lord Ahmad, announced in July that the was ordering a review into the way alcohol is sold in airports.

Following the announcement, online travel agent, Sunshine.co.uk, conducted a poll of more than 3,000 people, all drinkers, about alcohol sales at UK airports.

Their research found that 1 in 5 Britons supported the idea of banning alcohol sales in both airports and onboard flights.

This is not the first time the question of alcohol sales and flying has been raised. Last summer, Ryanair made the decision to ban all alcohol on its Ibiza flights. Monarch limited the amount of alcohol it served on selected ‘party’ flights. Monarch and Jet2 have previously banned passengers for life over alcohol-fueled incidents onboard flights.

The survey of more than 3,000 people (all of whom did consume alcohol in different measures) saw 19% support a total alcohol ban, although 71% believed that no changes were necessary – however, 8% of this group did believe that limits on alcohol sales should be put in place. 63% of those surveyed admitted they had been drunk at an airport or on a flight.

By law, Cabin Crew are not allowed to serve passengers who appear drunk.  Unfortunately, this has resulted in passengers getting aggressive when refused, intimidating fellow passengers. Some passengers have tried to get around restrictions by drinking their own duty free, even though alcoholic sales are put in tamper-proof bags. It’s this type of behaviour that has resulted in the review.

Of the group which wanted to see a ban on alcohol sales, 55% believed it would stop drunken behaviour on flights, 28% had witnessed drunken behaviour and/or incidents either at an airport or on a flight.

The poll also highlighted the reasons why travellers like to enjoy an alcoholic drink before their flight:

  • 62% drank at an airport to get ‘into the holiday spirit’
  • 41% had a drink to help calm their nerves
  • 35% simply said it was a force of habit
  • 27% only drank to join in with their fellow travellers
  • 25% said that a drink before a flight would help them settle and nap during the journey.

The review of alcohol sales could look at a number of options over the sale of alcohol in airports and on flights, including reducing the hours in which alcohol is served in airports rather than the current 24/7 availability, limiting the number of alcoholic drinks served on a flight per person.  There could even be strict ‘safe to fly’ limit imposed with Ground Crew breathalysing any seemingly over the limit passengers.

Interestingly, 7 people of those polled admitted to being turned away from a boarding gate from being drunk, whilst 9% of those polled did admit that Cabin Crew had spoken to them during a flight due to their behaviour.

Speaking about the research and its findings, Chris Clarkson, Managing Director for Sunshine.co.uk, said "Personally, I don't think restrictions on alcohol sales in airports or on flights would make a huge difference in terms of the number of incidents that occur when passengers are intoxicated.

"For one thing, they could just drink heavily before entering the airport and you'd no doubt get more people trying to smuggle alcohol through security, which wouldn't be ideal for anyone!

"Airline staff at the boarding gates can turn people away if they feel they aren't fit to fly because of the state they've got themselves into through boozing and I think that works perfectly well in terms of policing the issue."