It is the one place where it’s acceptable to sink breakfast pints.

For many, early morning airport drinking is a normal part of jetting off on holiday.

However, public health experts in Scotland say it’s time for a rethink on alcohol provision and say Covid pub closures should act as a catalyst for change.

A number of bars at Glasgow Airport closed during lockdown and have not re-opened.

Airports and aircraft are exempt from licensing laws which control how and when alcohol is sold.

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In 2018, the UK Government announced plans to look at this in England and Wales, and has suggested banning alcohol sales at pubs from 4am to 8am.

Scotland has the highest alcohol death rate of all UK nations, with a five-year average of 20.5 deaths per 100,000 population. A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it has no plans to license airport pubs.

Dr Linda de Caestecker, Glasgow’s director of public health, said the current laws were contributing to the normalisation of “drinking to mark every social occasion” and called for wider choices of healthy food and drink.

READ MORE: Scotland has highest alcohol death rate in UK

Budget airlines including Ryanair have backed the restriction of pub opening hours to cut down on disruptive passengers and delays.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, concerns were regularly raised about disruption to travel as well as passenger safety, due to people drinking to excess in airports, and continuing to drink once onboard.


“With the closure of many bars in airports we have an opportunity to rethink what we want from our travel experience. Airports and aircraft are currently exempt from licensing legislation which is designed to control how, where and when alcohol is sold.

“At the very least we should be bringing airside alcohol sales into the licensing system to prevent alcohol-related harm, making travel safer and more enjoyable for everyone.”

Dr de Caestecker said she would welcome tighter restrictions on pub opening times at airports.

She said: “This is a very exciting time for so many holidaymakers, as Covid-19 restrictions have allowed for travel to become a reality again.

"This is good news for those looking to get away to relax but it is also an opportunity for us to rethink our relationship with alcohol as a society.


"Of course, people go on holiday to unwind and enjoy themselves, but I would welcome greater restrictions on bar opening times in airports to avoid the culture of normalising drinking for every social occasion.

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“An innovative development of more healthy food and drink options across airport departments will help to promote healthy living while give those travelling a much greater selection.”

Britain exempted airports from licensing laws in the 1950s, when transport secretary at that time, Harold Watkinson, argued the change was essential to attract tourists.

Jet2 told a government committee that it handled 536 incidents involving disruptive passengers in 2016 alone and a majority involved drunken passengers.


However, those opposed to change say the number of incidents is small compared with passenger numbers, while Glasgow Airport said its “industry leading” Campus Watch programme led to a 50 per cent drop in the “small number of incidents we have”.

A spokesperson for the Airport Operators Association (AOA) said: “Thankfully incidents of disruptive behaviour are a very rare. However, where they do happen the impact can have serious consequences.

“Prior to the pandemic, airports worked with airport police, bars, restaurants and retailers as well as with airlines to develop the UK Aviation Industry Code of Practice on Disruptive Passengers.

“The code sets out how we work to further reduce incidents of disruptive behaviour and airports believe this continues to be the best way to tackle this issue as passenger return post-pandemic.

READ MORE: Making sense of Scotland's pandemic alcohol deaths and suicides

"Disruptive behaviour, including due to excessive alcohol consumption, is not acceptable. Passengers should be aware that consequences of such behaviour could include losing a holiday because they are denied boarding as well as fines, flight bans and prison sentences for the most serious offences.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The vast majority of people travelling through airports behave responsibly.

"There are already effective laws in place to deal with unruly passengers and the Scottish Government has no current plans to introduce the licensing of airside bars."

It said that while airport premises are exempt from certain requirements of the Licensing Act such as opening hours restrictions, none are actually open 24 hours as there are no departing passengers between about 9.30pm 
and 5am.