The pub is an integral part of life in the United Kingdom. That’s true whether you’re grabbing a swift half with friends at your local, checking out a quiet country pub on the weekend, or grabbing a couple pints at the airport before heading off on holiday. But those latter pubs have started to get a bit of an unsavory reputation: Due to a legal loophole, airport pubs, bars and restaurants can serve alcohol 24 hours a day—meaning it’s not an uncommon sight to catch groups of rowdy travelers slugging back breakfast pints before a morning flight. It’s a loophole that some officials believe is leading to problems, and now the U.K. government is considering a possible crackdown.
This month, the U.K.’s Home Office—a broad governmental department whose stated goal is to “keep citizens safe and the country secure”—said it plans to reassess the aforementioned loophole allowing for 24-hour airport drinking, issuing a “call for evidence” to “assess the impact of implementing the Licensing Act on airside premises on reducing alcohol related disorder.” Currently, the local councils who typically license and inspect such establishments don’t have power over airports, but depending on the Home Office’s findings, the law could be changed to crackdown on problematic airport pubs and bars.
The move by the Home Office comes after a report by the House of Lords called for the change last year, suggesting that “more often than not” alcohol was the source of passenger problems. According to the BBC, the number of arrests of drunken passenger in 2016 was about 50 percent higher than the year before. Meanwhile, according to the Manchester Evening News, police boarded aircraft at Manchester Airport 159 times in 2016, up from 110 times in 2015 and 73 times in 2014 – with more than half of the 2016 incidents involving alcohol or drugs. That said, a Manchester Airport spokesman sought to put those numbers in perspective. “Thankfully, instances of anti-social behavior are rare and involve only a small number of our 27.7 million passengers and affect a tiny proportion of the 500-plus flights we handle each day,” he said.
Still, even a handful of incidents can have a larger impact. “Hundreds of millions of passengers travel through the UK’s airports and they should be able to enjoy their holidays without having their flight disrupted by a small minority of people,” a Home Office spokesman was quoted as saying.
In particular, rowdy bachelor and bachelorette parties – known in the U.K. as stag and hen dos – have been cited as being especially troublesome. It’s a shame that these celebrations have to encroach on the rights of regular travelers to unwind with a beer before their flights. Maybe just pass a law that prevents breakfast beers from being served to people in matching outfits?