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Downing a perfectly chilled cocktail may be a pre-flight ritual for many travelers, but if lawmakers in the United Kingdom have their way, airport drinking could become a thing of the past. According to the BBC, the UK government’s Home Office is concerned about the rising number of alcohol-induced air rage incidents and believes that the best way to curb the problem is to restrict how and when airport bars and restaurants can serve alcohol to waiting passengers.
While the rest of England and Wales’ booze-serving establishments are forced to abide by certain restrictions laid out by the Licensing Act 2003, airport bars and eateries are able to operate outside of this regulation, meaning that they can serve patrons at any time of day. Worried that so many travelers are being inconvenienced by what the Home Office describes as “a small minority of people” who drink too much at the airport, then turn belligerent at 35,000 feet, the ministerial department is looking into what it would take to extend the Licensing Act to airport facilities.
The recommendation came from the House of Lords, who in 2017 found that the majority of air rage incidents — which have included everything from good old boorish behavior to threatening fellow flyers and cabin crew members — involved passengers who had been drinking before boarding their flights. In response, the Home Office issued a statement declaring: “With over 260 million passengers traveling through the UK airports annually, any disruptive passenger behavior is entirely unacceptable and an issue that warrants further examination.”
The Civil Aviation Authority, England’s equivalent of the FAA, reported a total of 418 air rage incidents in 2016. While that number may seem small given the millions of people who board an airplane in the United Kingdom in any given year, it’s double the number seen in 2015. And an earlier BBC report based on previous CAA data showed that disruptive aviation incidents had quadrupled between 2013 and 2015.
“You can see it every day where people are drinking pints at six in the morning,” said Phil Ward, managing director of Jet2.com, in 2016, when he announced that the low-cost, Leeds-based airline would be banning the sale of alcohol before 8am on its flights. “I’m not trying to spoil people’s holidays at all, but it’s not normal to drink a pint at six in the morning and that then manifests itself on board the plane where the alcohol takes a greater effect.”
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