Will airport alcohol curbs ruin a British tradition?

Government to crackdown on alcohol sales at airports after hundreds of incidents of drunken 'air rage'

(Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A spate of incidents involving drunken passengers on aeroplanes has triggered a government investigation into the way alcohol is sold at airports.

New figures show that at least 442 people were arrested on suspicion of being drunk on a plane out of Britain or at a British airport over the last two years. And worldwide, one aviation security expert estimates alcohol-fuelled air rage affects around 50 flights a day.

It has prompted Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad to consider looking at the times at which alcohol is on sale at airports and at the process for screening passengers before they get on a plane. “I don't think we want to kill merriment altogether, but I think it's important that passengers who board planes are also responsible,” he says.

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But for many people, getting to and through an airport is one of the most stressful activities in everyday life, says The Independent's Simon Calder: "A beer, glass of wine or G&T before departure is both a reward for reaching the departure lounge and can soothe the nerves."

What is more, Calder adds, alcohol is lucrative for airports, and spending on drink helps keep handling charges down.

Drinking is a significant part of the British holiday experience, says the Daily Telegraph’s Nigel Richardson. "It's every Brit's inalienable right to get in the holiday mood from the moment they lock the front door and toss a bumper pack of Whiskas back through the catflap," he writes.

The figure of 442 incidents must be put into context, Richards argues. Compared with the probable number of people wheeled into a river in a shopping trolley over the same period, it is tiny, he says, “but no one is suggesting banning shopping trolleys.”

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