Ryanair has called for a crackdown on alcohol sales at British airports after claiming that airlines are saddled with the consequences of passengers getting drunk before flights.
Europe’s biggest short-haul airline has proposed a ban on early morning sales of alcohol in bars and restaurants, and limiting the number of drinks sold per boarding pass.
The call comes after figures showed a spike in alcohol-related arrests at airports or in the air, while a major survey of cabin crew found most had witnessed drunken and disruptive behaviour on board.
But with the code apparently having little effect, Ryanair urged airports to go further, urging a ban on serving all alcohol in bars and restaurants before 10am, and ensuring boarding cards are produced for purchasing alcoholic drinks, which would be capped at two drinks per passenger.
Ryanair accused airports of profiting from allowing limitless drinking in terminals. The carrier’s marketing director, Kenny Jacobs, said: “It’s completely unfair that airports can profit from the unlimited sale of alcohol to passengers and leave the airlines to deal with the safety consequences.
“This is a particular problem during flight delays when airports apply no limit to the sale of alcohol in airside bars and restaurants. This is an issue which the airports must now address and we are calling for significant changes to prohibit the sale of alcohol at airports, particularly with early morning flights and when flights are delayed.”
Passengers are banned from consuming duty-free purchases on most flights. Ryanair has gone further by stopping passengers on certain routes to Spain from Glasgow and Manchester from bringing duty-free alcohol on board.
Jacobs added: “We operate strict guidelines for the carriage of customers who are disruptive or appear to be under the influence of alcohol. Given that all our flights are short-haul, very little alcohol is actually sold on board, so it’s incumbent on the airports to introduce these preventative measures to curb excessive drinking and the problems it creates, rather than allowing passengers to drink to excess before their flights.”
The airline’s call came after a survey of 4,000 cabin crew by the Unite trade union found that 87% had witnessed drunken passenger behaviour at UK airports or departing flights – the majority since the code of conduct was introduced last year. The union said it showed the need for the code to be strengthened, with tougher penalties for disruptive behaviour.
A quarter of crew said they believed the drunken passengers they saw had threatened flight safety. More than half of those surveyed said they had suffered verbal abuse as a result. Unite called for an action plan to “stem the tide of drunken and disruptive behaviour”.
Arrests for drunken behaviour on flights or at UK airports have gone up by 50% in the past year, according to statistics obtained by BBC1’s Panorama.
Police forces covering major airports reported a total of 387 arrests in the year to February 2017, compared with 255 in the previous 12 months.
The CAA Air Navigation Order makes it an offence to board an aircraft while drunk. In its draft aviation strategy published last month, the government said it would continue to work with the industry to consider other possible solutions.