A few months ago, I had the displeasure of being on the same flight as a drunk guy who stumbled down the jet bridge, sat in the wrong seat, moved to the correct seat, then belligerently yelled to his friend three rows away. (He quickly fell asleep, to everyone’s relief.) Apparently this behavior is par for the course at U.K. airports, where incidents of drunkenly disruptive passengers have increased dramatically in recent years. Fed up, the U.K. government’s Home Office today launched a review of what could be done—including limiting passengers’ alcohol orders or cutting down on airport pub hours—to fix the problem.
The Evening Standard offers this data for context: There were 195 incidents of “serious disruption” on U.K. flights in 2015, which climbed to 415 in 2016 and 417 in 2017, according to the Civil Aviation Authority. The airlines are fed up—as are sober passengers, presumably—and have called on the government to find a solution. Discount carrier Ryanair has become one of the leading voices in calling for a limit to preflight drinking, as authorities had to remove a “disruptive man” dressed in a Tinkerbell costume from a Ryanair flight at London’s Stansted Airport in August. Ryanair said at the time that airports had a duty to curb passengers’ excessive drinking, rather than leaving it to the airlines to handle later.
According to the Morning Advertiser, current proposals include limiting passengers to two drinks at the airport and getting rid of alcohol sales before 10 a.m., both of which Ryanair has supported. But hospitality groups that operate airport pubs say these changes would be unfair to the vast majority of drinkers who consume alcohol responsibly before their flights. One such company, UKHospitality, says the problem is not the pubs but with people who drink duty-free alcohol illegally on board their flights. It says it will work with its members to ensure patrons are served responsibly, but maintains its support for “passengers’ right to enjoy a drink on their holiday.”
Look, I don’t much enjoy flying, and I know firsthand that a couple glasses of wine does help calm my nerves before takeoff. So I’d like to retain the ability to order a morning Bloody Mary, should I ever find myself with an early flight out of Heathrow. At least here in the States, laws already state that bartenders cannot serve alcohol to patrons who are already visibly impaired or intoxicated. Shouldn’t that rule cover this problem? Better training for bartenders and servers—plus some consequences for them when they overserve customers—seems to be the fairest solution. All I want is two glasses of malbec before boarding and a flight free from Tinkerbell hooligans—is that too much to ask?