Importance of pubs and tourism recognised in 'future of aviation' strategy

By Fred A'Court

- Last updated on GMT

Top flight: the Government's aviation strategy is key for pubs and tourism
Top flight: the Government's aviation strategy is key for pubs and tourism
A newly published Government strategy on the future of aviation has been welcomed by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) for recognising the importance of tourism, which is key to the UK’s pubs and brewing industry.

The strategy also highlights the need for improvements in dealing with alcohol sales and airline passenger behaviour, confirming that the Home Office is to call for evidence on the impact of extending the Licensing Act 2003 to include airside bars, restaurants and shops.

Disruptive behaviour on aeroplanes is increasing with seven out of 10 incidents related to alcohol, according to the Department for Transport’s report, called Beyond the horizon – the future of UK aviation: next steps towards an aviation strategy​.

The BBPA says it has been engaged with the Home Office for some time on this issue and supports the extension of the act to cover airside areas. Its members, who operate at airports, all use the same high standards as they do in pubs across the country, it added.

“We are helping airports interested in many of the partnership schemes run by the industry, but it is vital that airports and airlines work together to find the right solutions,” the BBPA said.

Focus on disruptive behaviour

The Government’s strategy document pledges to reduce disruptive passenger behaviour, particularly related to alcohol by raising awareness of the consequences and considering a strengthening of regulations.

It says that disruptive behaviour is on the rise and the Government wants to understand what supportive action it can take to help the aviation industry tackle what it says is an increasing problem.

Alcohol is the single biggest cause of such behaviour, says the report. Almost a fifth (18%) of airline passengers have witnessed drunken or aggressive behaviour during flights in the past three years, with seven out of 10 incidents involving alcohol.

However, it is not clear what proportion of alcohol is brought into airports, bought airside and drunk on flights, or drunk before passengers arrive at the airport.

It is important to understand this when deciding which solutions could be most effective, the strategy said.

One airline reported that around half of disruptive incidents passengers were involved in had consumed their own alcohol on board.

Airside rules

A recent House of Lords select committee report recommended that the Licensing Act 2003 be extended to airside premises at airports so there is greater oversight of bars, restaurants and shops that sell alcohol.

The Home Office is to call for evidence on the select committee recommendations in a bid to assess the impact of extending the act as well as understanding more precisely the scale and causes of the problem.

Since June 2015, some airlines have been working with the pub and bar industry, and other organisations, to minimise the problem under a code of practice that the Government says it fully supports.

Among the more high-profile strategies adopted have been warning signs at check-in desks, high-visibility patrols to monitor potential incidents and the confiscation of duty-free alcohol.

Stronger penalties considered

At present, the maximum penalty for drunkeness on an aircraft is two years in jail and unlimited fines, and the Government has not ruled out introducing even stronger penalties.

One option under consideration is selling duty-free alcohol in sealed bags that passengers are not allowed to open until they reach their final destination.

The strategy document considers the importance of infrastructure connecting roads and rail to airports and is very much part of a plan to encourage visitors to reach all parts of the UK, the BBPA said.

Pubs are important tourist destinations; more than half of tourists visit a pub while staying in the UK, and pubs are listed as the third most popular UK tourist destination. According to research by the pub accommodation website Stay in a Pub, 13% of its enquiries from 100 countries are about visiting or staying in a pub.

As a result, official tourism websites are now promoting British pubs.

Beer exports

As well as drinking beer in this country, overseas visitors want to try it again when they are home and this is good for brewing exports, the BBPA said, with overseas sales worth £595m to the UK economy in 2017.

The BBPA also welcomed the Budget consultation on air passenger duty and VAT on tourism, “as both are vital to our competitiveness in a world market”.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the body will be working closely with the Department of Transport and other Government departments to ensure pubs are supported by the UK’s upcoming aviation strategy.

“As the UK leaves the EU and looks to trade with the rest of the world, a bold aviation strategy will help UK brewers sell their world-class beer across the world and keep the UK an attractive place to visit,” she said.

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