|AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, file via Newscred|
by Laura Hughes, Deputy Political Editor, Steven Swinford and Political Correspondent from The Daily Telegraph, August 02, 2016
Plane passengers should be stopped from drinking too much before they get on their flights amid concerns that families going on holiday and businessmen are being intimidated, a minister has said.
Lord Ahmad, the new aviation minister, said that while he does not want to “kill merriment altogether” he is concerned that the current regime may not “fit for purpose”.
The Conservative peer said he wants to “look at” the fact that airport pubs, bars and restaurants can sell alcohol 24 hours a day because they are not subject to licensing laws.
It came as airlines, retailers, police and airports announced a new crackdown on “disruptive” passengers which will see them forced to pay for any damage they cause as well the cost of as delays and diversions.
The worst offenders will face travel bans, while airlines have vowed to take steps to bar people from drinking duty-free alcohol on aircraft.
Alcoholic drinks purchased from duty free retailers will have to be kept in “tamper proof” bags and stored in separate locations on planes, the new code of practice states.
It has been signed by airlines including Easyjet, Flybe, Jet2, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Some airlines are also considering introducing entirely “dry flights” on some services if cabin crew have concerns about passenger behaviour, or putting tight restrictions on the number of drinks that can be served.
It comes amid mounting concern about “air rage” after a rise in cases of mid-flight disruption, some of which have led to emergency landings. Foreign airlines have even resorted to restraining passengers with seatbelts and adhesive tape.
Figures released under freedom of information laws showed at least 442 people were held after incidents on planes between March 2014 and March 2016.
In February six men on a stag party were arrested by German police after a mid-air brawl caused a Ryanair flight from Luton to Bratislava, Slovakia, to divert to Berlin.
Another recent case involved a female passenger punching an easyJet pilot in the face after being ordered to leave an aircraft before it took off from Manchester in May.
Lord Ahmad told the Press Association: “If you’re a young family travelling on a plane you want to go from point A to B, you don’t want to be disrupted.
“I don't think we want to kill merriment altogether, but I think it's important that passengers who board planes are also responsible and have a responsibility to other passengers, and that certainly should be the factor which we bear in mind.
"In terms of specific regulations of timings of outlets (which sell alcohol) and how they operate, clearly I want to have a look at that."
He added: "I want to certainly look at what more can be done in terms of making aviation a very attractive sector for all, so whether you're a businessman making travelling arrangements or you're a family planning a holiday, you can do so… knowing that once you board the plane it's going to be an environment in which you're going to be safe and secure.”
However Graham Stringer, a Labour MP on the Transport select committee, said: “My instinct is that there are already rules and if people fancy a drink at the start of their holidays then why shouldn't they have one?
"It sounds to me like nannying and I think he's looking for something to do. There are perfectly adequate rules to stop anti-social and drunken behaviour both in airports and on planes."
The Association of Licenced Multiple Retailers, which represents airline pubs and restaurants, took issues with Lord Ahmad’s suggestion that their ability to sell alcohol around the clock should be looked at.
Kate Nicholls, the head of the association, said: “Airport retailers have staff who take responsibility for how much alcohol they serve people. The same cannot be said for people trying to sell as much cheap alcohol as they can as you walk through the airport.”
The British Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, yesterday published new guidance stating that airlines will “seek to hold passengers who are disruptive to account for their behaviour”.
It states: “This will include recouping from passengers the costs resulting from their disruptive behaviour, including for diversions, damage to aircraft and delays”.
It also says that staff at “airside” pubs and bars must stop selling alcohol to people who have drunk too much.
A dossier published by the Civil Aviation Authority last year detailed incidents relating to passengers drinking their own beer and spirits, smoking in the lavatories, assaulting cabin crew and fighting.
In one case, a passenger flying to Corfu was “abusive to cabin crew and set fire to [a] companion’s hair” while another “exposed himself to cabin crew and fellow passengers”.
Other incidents included a stag party stealing alcohol from the food and drink cart, a passenger entering the flight deck and another trying to damage the fuselage.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Airport Security is always under review, however there are no plans to specifically address the issue of alcohol at airports.”
This article was written by Laura Hughes, Deputy Political Editor, Steven Swinford and Political Correspondent from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.