Airport alcohol sales to be 'examined' by Lord Ahmad

Airport alcohol Image copyright Thinkstock

The way alcohol is sold in airports is to be examined after a number of recent incidents involving drunk passengers, the new aviation minister has said.

Lord Ahmad said he did not want to "kill merriment", but that he would "look at" the times alcohol was on sale, and passenger screening.

Figures show 442 people were held on suspicion of being drunk at an airport or on a plane in the last two years.

The government said there were no plans to specifically address the issue.

In one recent case a female passenger punched an Easyjet pilot in the face after being ordered to leave an aircraft before take-off from Manchester.

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.

Lord Ahmad said: "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."

He went on: "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 also highlighted the value of screening travellers before they boarded planes.

Glasgow and Manchester airports have trialled a scheme with shops selling alcohol in sealed bags in a bid to reduce problems on flights.

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Media captionAndrew Tosh was sentenced to nine months in prison after a drunken assault on a plane. Sussex Police released the footage as a warning to others

Police statistics obtained by the Press Association through Freedom of Information requests showed at least 442 people were held on suspicion of being drunk on a plane or at an airport in the UK between March 2014 and March 2016.

Trade bodies representing UK airlines and airports said such incidents were "a very rare occurrence", but warned they could lead to "serious consequences".

They pointed out that disruption on board an aircraft was an illegal offence which could carry a heavy penalty - including a travel ban, fine, or prison sentence.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority's most recent passenger survey, some 238 million passengers passed through UK airports in 2014.

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Media captionAlcohol and air travel can be a dangerous mix, as Tim Muffett reports

Earlier this week budget carrier published a code of practice on disruptive passengers following collaboration between airlines, airports, the police and retailers.

The "zero tolerance" approach includes airport shops advising passengers not to drink alcohol they have purchased before or during their flight, and training staff in bars and restaurants to limit or stop the sale of alcohol to prevent or manage disruptive behaviour.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "Airport security is always under review, however there are no plans to specifically address the issue of alcohol at airports."

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