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As Ryanair calls for restrictions on airport alcohol sales, here’s why it got to this point

With air rage incidents on the rise on flights from the UK to sunny destinations, airlines including Ryanair and easyJet have called for the Government to change licensing laws to restrict airport alcohol sales at terminal bars and pubs - a move that would be "draconian", according to Dublin Airport

Ryanair has again called for airport alcohol restrictions for passengers waiting to board flights – putting it at odds with the airport industry.

The low-cost airline proposed passengers should be allowed no more than two drinks while waiting for their flight in addition to banning alcohol sales entirely before 10am.

This comes after a flight from Dublin to Ibiza on Saturday was forced to touch-down prematurely in Paris when three passengers became too disruptive and were ultimately detained by French police upon landing.

Ryanair said in a statement: “It is incumbent on the airports to introduce these preventative measures to curb excessive drinking and the problems it creates, rather than allowing passengers to drink to excess before their flights.

“It’s completely unfair that airports can profit from the unlimited sale of alcohol to passengers and leave the airlines to deal with the safety consequences.”

 

Opposition from Dublin airport

Ryanair’s move has prompted recrimination from Dublin Airport, which feels the airline’s proposal is “highly draconian.”

A spokesperson said: “The behaviour of some individuals on the Ryanair flight in question was clearly unacceptable.

“But restricting alcohol would affect all passengers because of the behaviour of a very small minority of airline travellers.”

airport alcohol
A bar at the UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow.

Dublin Airport says it has worked with the likes of Ryanair, as well as the Irish Aviation Authority and airport police on an educational campaign to publicly condemn drunk and disorderly behaviour during flights.

Following the disrupted flight, the airport added it will remind the licence holders in its bars and restaurants that they have a responsibility to ensure customers do not drink too much before boarding planes.

 

Airport alcohol consumption a growing problem

Statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority suggest Ryanair could have a point in its proposal of airport alcohol sale restrictions, with an increasing amount of incidents similar to the one on its Saturday flight occurring.

It reports that, as recently as 2016, there were 418 total UK flights that had one or more disruptive passengers – more than double over the previous year.

And according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 2017 saw a 50% rise in the number of passengers who had to been restrained due to drunken behaviour.

It was these numbers that led Ryanair to first call for a crackdown on alcohol sales during the same year, and it isn’t alone in renewing its protest in 2018, either.

 

Other cases of airlines picking up the pieces of airport alcohol sales

ryanair
British low-cost airline easyjet called for restrictions on alcohol earlier this month

The Ryainair incident is the third high-profile incident involving drunk and disorderly behaviour on flights from the UK just this month.

On 1 June, an easyJet flight from Bristol to Prague was cancelled in part due to abusive behaviour from drunken passengers reportedly treating the aircraft as thought it was a “nightclub”.

Four days later, a man was arrested for being drunk and disorderly on an easyJet flight from Bristol to Menorca.

This led the airline to call for a ban on passengers drinking duty-free alcohol on planes, as well as in airports.

These are only the latest in a string of incidents over the past 18 months.

In January last year, a Jet2.com passenger on a flight between Manchester and Tenerife was sentenced to seven months in prison after drunkenly hijacking a plane’s intercom system to demand more alcohol.

Later in 2017, a British women flying from Manchester to Mexican beach resort Cancun drunkenly lunged at her fellow passengers, forcing an impromptu landing in Quebec, Canada – where she was subsequently jailed for 20 days.

 

What the UK Government is proposing to do about airport alcohol problem

Bars and pubs at terminals in UK airports currently operate outside normal licensing laws but the Government was said to be considering making changes at the beginning of this year.

The Lord’s Licensing Act 2003 Committee has called on ministers to place restrictions on alcohol sales at airports in a bid to curb drunken behaviour on flights.

In a response to its recommendations published last November, the Government said: “With over 260 million passengers travelling through the UK airports annually, any disruptive passenger behaviour is entirely unacceptable and an issue that warrants further examination.

“While the number of disruptive events remains small compared to the total passenger numbers, the occurrences seem to be on the rise.

“The most serious instances can even evolve into a situation that causes a safety issue.

“Ensuring the safety of all passengers is a priority for the Government, and we are committed to maintaining a travelling environment that is both safe and enjoyable for all passengers.”

Currently, general acts of drunkenness on an aircraft can result in a £5,000 fine and two years in prison (up to a maximum of five years depending on the severity of the offence).

But flight diversions due to disruptive behaviour can cost up to £80,000, and those responsible could be made to pay the balance.