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Government launches airport licensing consultation


The government has announced it is to hold a three-month public consultation on introducing alcohol licensing laws at airports in England and Wales.

At present, airside bars, restaurants and pubs are not covered by the national licensing laws, and this means they are not subject to the rules in place designed to curb excessive drinking elsewhere, such as making it illegal to serve someone who is already drunk.

This has led to concerns about incidents of passengers drinking heavily before flights, sometimes as a means of trying to deal with a fear of flying, and the resulting spate of incidents of misbehaviour onboard aircraft.

Such incidents have often led to aircraft having to be diverted or return to the airport they have taken off from, in order to remove a drunken passenger.

The House of Lords Select Committee recommended the imposition of licensing laws on airside alcohol outlets as a result of a marked rise in recorded incidents.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, 417 flights were affected by drunken passenger misbehaviour in 2017, while 418 were affected in 2016. The latter figure was more than double the reported figure for 2015, although that was partly due to more diligent reporting and a zero-tolerance approach.

A survey of 4,000 aircrew by the Unite union found 87 per cent had experienced disruptive behaviour by inebriated passengers.

Commenting on the consultation, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “Air travel often marks the start of an exciting holiday abroad and airports are places to eat, drink and shop as we wait to board our flights.

“Most UK air passengers behave responsibly when flying, but any disruptive or drunk behaviour is entirely unacceptable.

“This government is committed to ensuring that the travelling environment for airline passengers remains safe and enjoyable.”

She added that the consultation represents an “excellent opportunity” for anyone with an interest in the issue to help the government find a workable solution. It will conclude at the end of January.

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