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Airport alcohol sales to be reviewed after flights disrupted by drunk passengers

Published 29/07/2016

Lord Ahmad was appointed aviation minister by Theresa May when she became Prime Minister earlier this month
Lord Ahmad was appointed aviation minister by Theresa May when she became Prime Minister earlier this month

The way alcohol is sold at airports is to be examined amid a spate of incidents on planes involving drunk passengers.

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad has pledged to consider what more can be done to make air travel an "attractive sector for all" which is "safe and secure".

He made the comments as an airline handed a passenger a £12,000 bill and a lifetime ban after his "abusive and aggressive" behaviour led to a plane being diverted to Manchester.

Joshua Strickland, 21, of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire , "illicitly" drank alcohol he had brought on to the aircraft on July 13 and threatened a family on board the flight from Leeds Bradford to Larnaca, Cyprus, budget carrier said.

The airline added that when a member of the cabin crew attempted to calm him down, he made "physical threats towards her and also began to punch the seats".

Strickland appeared at Manchester Magistrates' Court on Thursday where he pleaded guilty to being drunk on an aircraft, a court spokeswoman said.

The case was adjourned for sentencing at Manchester Crown Court on August 25. has a "zero-tolerance" policy against disruptive behaviour by passengers. More than 500 of its customers have been refused travel, with over 60 of those given lifetime bans.

Recent police statistics show hundreds of passengers were arrested on suspicion of being drunk on a plane or at an airport in the last two years.

Figures obtained following freedom of information requests show at least 442 people were held between March 2014 and March 2016.

In an interview with the Press Association, Lord Ahmad said: "If you're a young family travelling on a plane you want to go from point A to B, you don't want to be disrupted.

"I don't think we want to kill merriment altogether, but I think it's important that passengers who board planes are also responsible and have a responsibility to other passengers, and that certainly should be the factor which we bear in mind.

"In terms of specific regulations of timings of outlets (which sell alcohol) and how they operate, clearly I want to have a look at that."

Lord Ahmad, who was appointed aviation minister by Theresa May when she became Prime Minister earlier this month, also highlighted the value of screening travellers before they board planes.

"I think that it's important for the safety and security of all passengers that we ensure that regime is actually fit for purpose," he said.

He added: "I want to certainly look at what more can be done in terms of making aviation a very attractive sector for all, so whether you're a businessman making travelling arrangements or you're a family planning a holiday, you can do so... knowing that once you board the plane it's going to be an environment in which you're going to be safe and secure."

A code of practice on disruptive passengers was published earlier this week following collaboration between airlines, airports, the police and retailers.

It includes airport shops advising passengers not to drink alcohol they have purchased before or during their flight, and training staff in bars and restaurants to limit or stop the sale of alcohol if they are concerned about disruptive behaviour.

Trade bodies representing UK airlines and airports said incidents of disruption are "a very rare occurrence", but warned they can lead to "serious consequences".

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, and Ed Anderson, chairman of the Airport Operators Association, said in a joint statement: "These incidents can be costly and cause delays.

"With air travel proving more popular than ever, and passenger numbers expected to rise across the whole of the UK in the coming years, now is the time to tackle this problem collectively."

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: " Airport security is always under review, however there are no plans to specifically address the issue of alcohol at airports."

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