This is to assess whether airside premises in England and Wales should fall under the ambit of the Licensing Act 2003 to reduce disruptive alcohol related behaviour.
Drunken behaviour is unacceptable, and Tim Aldersdale, the chief executive of Airlines UK, the trade body for UK-registered airlines states that “all the evidence [shows] that this is a problem that is only getting worse”. It supports the removal of the exemption for airports under Section 173 of the act, despite the majority of air passengers in England and Wales behaving responsibly.
Some stakeholders support a restriction of two drinks per customer, alcohol sales from 10am, or restrictive lease terms. Trade representatives, while accepting drunken behaviour should not be tolerated, say additional measures that penalise the responsible majority or demonise pubgoers should be avoided.
It appears that the argument is whether the problem is so prevalent that the act must be used to control drunks or is this using a sledgehammer to crack a nut?
Many argue there are already provisions for drunken behaviour by passengers. They could be barred from flying. The UK’s aviation industry has a comprehensive code of practice on dealing with disruptive passengers and under the Air Navigation Order 2016, entering an aeroplane while drunk, being drunk on an aircraft, using threats or threatening behaviour, interfering with the aircraft or crew, endangering an aircraft or refusing to obey an order from the aircraft commander are all criminal offences.
Some say the problem is consumption of duty-free alcohol on flights. The use of the act is unlikely to prevent this. Training and policies/codes of conduct could be key. In fact, some carriers have banned the consumption of dutyfree alcohol on their flights. Tackling the issue could include best practice, addressing irresponsible alcohol sales and refusal of alcohol sales on and off flights. The experience of Doncaster-Sheffield, the only currently non-exempt airport, may help to a degree – but how different is Doncaster-Sheffield to Heathrow?
The Government is exploring whether further regulation is required airside, using the act. Imagine the legalities of having the council inspecting premises, or investigating matters airside, let alone the movement of those officers through security and immigration. Could we see cumulative impact areas in airports, or objections to new licences by airlines or even passengers who live hundreds of miles away? Will our choice of airport be governed by whether it is ‘wet’ or ‘dry’?
The topic is contentious and caution is key.