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‘Criminalise drinking duty-free booze on jets’

Business & Economy 01 May 2017
‘Criminalise drinking duty-free booze on jets’

Drinking duty-free booze on planes 'should be a criminal offence'

The industry body that represents the likes of BA and easyJet says the move would reduce incidents of "air rage" fuelled by booze.

Image: There were 421 incidences of disruptive passengers at UK airports in 2016

By Alan McGuinness, Political Reporter – Exclusive

Drinking alcohol bought in duty free on board planes should be made a criminal offence, according to airlines.

Airlines UK – which represents carriers such as British Airways, EasyJet, Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic – has told Sky News the move would help reduce incidents of "air rage" fuelled by booze.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) there were 421 incidences of disruptive passengers at UK airports in 2016, with the majority thought to be down to alcohol.

Twenty-three passengers from at least two different stag parties were thrown off a flight at Manchester Airport earlier this month for "disruptive behaviour".

A Duty Free shop at Terminal 2 at Heathrow
Image: There have been calls to restrict the sale and consumption of alcohol

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade told Sky News: "Alcohol is the single largest contributory factor and it is clear that it needs to be sold and consumed responsibly, for the safety of all.

"Alcohol purchased in the airport and then consumed covertly on-board is hard for crew to monitor and control and so airlines are asking Government to amend the Air Navigation Order to make this type of consumption a criminal offence.

"We're hopeful that the changes to the ANO – alongside strict adherence to the code of practice – will be adequate to see the number of incidents come down and we remain open to any additional solutions put forward in the future."

A view of a bar inside Terminal 3 at Manchester Airport
Image: A parliamentary committee wants the 2003 Licensing Act to apply to airports

In response, a Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Passengers should be able to enjoy journeys from the UK's airports without having their journeys spoilt by a disruptive minority.

"We strongly support efforts to tackle the problem of passengers who cause disruption on flights and welcome an industry-wide Code of Practice that has been published recently.

"There are no plans to change the rules around drinking on flights."

A CAA spokesperson told Sky News: "There is a range of work by the aviation industry to reduce disruptive passenger incidents and we will continue to engage with the industry as it explores further options for how best to tackle this issue."

The intervention comes in the wake of a parliamentary committee recommending restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol at terminals.

Alcoholic drink on plane
Image: Alcohol consumed covertly on-board 'is hard for crew to monitor'

The Lords Licensing Act committee said it was "not for one moment" convinced the voluntary code of conduct introduced last year was proving effective in dealing with the problem.

The committee wants the 2003 Licensing Act to apply to airports like it does to other premises selling alcohol.

This could potentially mean an end to early morning airport drinking and hours more in line with pubs and restaurants.

However, the Airport Operators Association has rejected such calls.

A spokesman for the industry body, which represents the UK's airports, said the organisation thinks the code "is the best way to address the issues raised in this report".

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