The latest issue of contention in UK airports isn't flight delays or lost luggage... but the question of whether or not passengers should be able to enjoy a few drinks before boarding. A new Government consultation questions whether or not passengers should be able to continue to drink freely airside, leading to mixed responses from airlines and from UKHospitality. For many people, the pre-flight tipple is part of their vacation ritual, while for others, it's a necessary way to deal with the stress of navigating huge and crowded airports.
Most larger airports offer at least one bar (or restaurant where alcohol is served), although the style and size depends on the airport itself - and often on the terminal. In the UK, where pubs are a huge part of the culture, chain gastropubs are a fixture at many airports, and of course, the Irish Pub is ubiquitous in airports all over the world.
The Government Consultation was launched Nov 1st, and promises to look into 'alcohol-related disruptive behavior' at airports, and how the sale of alcohol at airside bars and restaurants affects it. This comes after the reveal by the Civil Aviation Authority that the number of flight disruptions continues to rise; from 195 (in 2015) to 417 (in 2017).
Ryanair supports the idea of limiting the number of drinks that passengers can legally consume at the airport, calling for a two-drink maximum. However, UKHospitality's Kate Nicholls fired back, claiming that this limit would 'demonize pubgoers', and pointing the finger at passengers drinking Duty Free purchases on board as the problem. The British Beer And Pub Association's Brigid Simmons, meanwhile, favors a more moderate approach, calling for 'best practice training for outlets selling alcohol at airports'.
Clearly, there is support for measures that will decrease the risk of passengers behaving badly due to overdrinking at the airport; something that increases the chances of delays, safety concerns on board, and even unexpected stops. Airplane safety is always important, but there are other concerns that come with preventing passengers from drinking, or imposing a blanket limit. As UKHospitality pointed out, any limit on the sale of alcohol would only affect economy passengers, while the business and first class lounges may still be able to provide as much as they like to those with more expensive tickets. Other passengers may be overdrinking on the planes themselves, unaware of how the altitude can affect tolerance. In addition, blanket limits can be problematic in terms of individual tolerance: a 200lb heavy drinker and a 90lb occasional drinker would not be affected in the same way by the same number of pints at the pub before their flight.
Of course, right now this is still in very early stages, and the consultation will gather information and opinions from a range of sources before even starting to make clear recommendations for legislation. So passengers who enjoy starting their vacation with some airport booze won't have to worry about losing it any time too soon...
Source: Morning Advertiser