UK’s duty-free shops ban drinking alcohol for air passengers

Bottles are sealed in plastic bags with a label saying: “Do not open alcohol purchases until your final destination”  

Passengers travelling from many airports in the United Kingdom have to get used to flying dry. From the beginning of this year, they cannot drink alcohol purchased in certain duty-free shops until they complete their journey.

World Duty Free only sells alcohol sealed in a plastic bag — Michaelpuche / Shutterstock UK’s duty-free shops ban drinking alcohol for air passengers
World Duty Free only sells alcohol sealed in a plastic bags — Michaelpuche / Shutterstock

In a measure against excessive alcohol consumption, World Duty Free — the provider of the duty-free shops at 22 airports in the country — now requires all alcoholic drinks to be sealed in plastic bags.

The packages include a strict label saying: “Do not open alcohol purchases until your final destination.”

The new World Duty Free policy has been quietly in place since the end of last year. The ban applies to all forms of beer, wine and spirits, no matter the bottle size.

According to The Times, passengers would need scissors or knives to open the bags. However, such accessories are out of the question in hand luggage as a security measure. This should prevent travellers from drinking onboard.

World Duty Free’s spokeswoman said that the company “voluntarily took the step of introducing sealed bags” for all alcohol purchases.

While saying that disruptive incidents were rather rare, the spokeswoman added: “Where they do happen, the impact can be serious for fellow passengers, employees working in the air and at the airport.

“The industry is working together to tackle this problem and make disruptive behaviour such as this socially unacceptable.

“The vast majority of our customers understand that the alcohol we sell can only be consumed when they reach their destination. This message is already clearly conveyed at tills, on receipts and on bags.”

Gatwick introduces no shots policy

In a similar attempt to prevent passengers from violent drunk behaviour, London Gatwick airport has recently banned the sale of miniature bottles from duty-free shops and introduced a no shots policy in bars.

Gatwick has introduced several measure against excessive drinking — Sue Martin / Shutterstock UK’s duty-free shops ban drinking alcohol for air passengers
Gatwick has introduced several measures against excessive drinking — Sue Martin / Shutterstock

Similarly, in June last year, the Glasgow airport introduced its zero-tolerance policy aiming to reduce the volume of alcohol passengers consume.

Legal tools to reduce excessive alcohol consumption at the UK airports have been discussed by the British Government for more than a year. In January last year, IATA said that in 2017 there had been a 50 per cent increase in the number of passengers detained as a result of aggressive drunk behaviour.

The government is already considering extending high street licensing laws to airports, which could stop airport bars from serving alcohol around the clock.