Is there anything better than the airport beer? The one you drink once you’ve made it to the airport, battled past security, and glanced at the departure board to find you have permission—in the form of 20 to 30 minutes left until boarding—to down a pint of amber nectar.
If you’re traveling for work, it’s a temporary moment of respite that you’ve earned. If you’re headed on vacation, it’s the first sign that fun is on the way. However in the UK, it’s turned into too much of a good thing—so much so, that the UK government is considering cracking down on boozing before boarding.
Licensed establishments in the UK generally can’t serve alcohol before 10am. But those rules don’t apply in any of the UK’s airside establishments. The result is a bizarre ritual—one as British as tea and biscuits—of travelers huddled around a high-top table downing a pint before a 6:45am Ryanair or easyJet flight.
Airlines—particularly budget carriers, who carry many Britons on early-morning flights to holiday locales—have complained of passengers imbibing excessively at airport bars before boarding, leaving cabin crew to deal with the fallout of drunk, disruptive passengers. Last year, BBC One’s investigative program Panorama found that there was a 50% increase in drunken behavior arrest on flights from 2016.
And in September, the UK aviation’s industry launched a public awareness campaign reminding travellers of the risks involved in getting too boozy on board—including an up to £80,000 fine if a flight must make an unscheduled landing due to drunken behavior.
The UK government is now reviewing the lack of licensing laws that allow Britons to order any number of airport drinks at any time of day. It cited a 2017 Unite survey of more than 4,000 Britain-based cabin crew in which “87% of respondents reported witnessing drunken passenger behavior at UK airports or on flights from UK airports.”
Not everyone is happy at the prospect of the airport booze crackdown, of course. As a columnist for the Independent bluntly put it: “We can make our own decisions about whether we want to get smashed.”