Ryanair is having a tough time. As Brexit threatens to turn its entire business upside down, passengers can't stop getting drunk on its flights, doing something stupid on camera, and causing all kinds of chaos when the video hits the internet. Now, Ryanair is trying to restrict how much people drink at the airport.
This week, the budget airline proposed that British airports only sell alcohol after 10AM, and then only allow two drinks per boarding pass. The move comes after an especially embarrassing year of drunken passengers being rowdy, abusing other passengers, stripping, openly having sex, and ultimately diverting flights to unplanned destinations. (Each of those links refers to a separate incident, all of which happened in the first half of this year.)
You almost can't blame Ryanair for treating its passengers like university students who need extra supervision. The UK's Civil Aviation Authority actually instituted a code of conduct last year, after a study revealed a 600 per cent increase in "disruptive" passenger behaviour. The agency listed alcohol as "a common factor". Ryanair, which has already banned alcohol altogether on some flights between Scotland and Spain, is struggling to get a handle on the problem. After all, look at all the crazy crap that's happened since that code of conduct went into place.
Still, the idea of an alcohol ration either feels either Orwellian or Victorian -- or maybe both. It sounds like there's an economic incentive to the plan as well.
"It's completely unfair that airports can profit from the unlimited sale of alcohol to passengers and leave the airlines to deal with the safety consequences," Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair's marketing director, said in a statement. "This is a particular problem during flight delays when airports apply no limit to the sale of alcohol in airside bars and restaurants. This is an issue which the airports must now address and we are calling for significant changes to prohibit the sale of alcohol at airports, particularly with early morning flights and when flights are delayed."
So, it's the airports' fault for letting these passengers get drunk before their flights? That seems to be precisely what Ryanair is saying and the motivation for the proposed restrictions on drinking in airports. After the airline announced the plan, however, a disgruntled employee leaked emails suggesting Ryanair is simultaneously pressuring workers to sell more drinks on flights. "All they care about is sales," the unnamed Ryanair steward told The Mirror. Ryanair disputes this and told the paper:
These claims are untrue - no crew are "threatened everyday with disciplinary action." …
The safety of our customers, people and aircraft comes before all other considerations including sales, and cabin crew have full discretion when it comes to selling or refusing to sell alcohol to passengers on board.
Furthermore, all of our flights are short -- haul, so very little alcohol is actually sold on board, which is why the issue lies with the airports.
Regardless of the intent, it's easy to see that Ryanair is suffering through some alcohol problems. Whether the blame should fall on the airports, the passengers, or the airline itself remains to be determined. But you do have to think twice about Ryanair trying to impose its will on others. This is the same airline that once wanted to charge passengers to use the restroom and even proposed "standing room" flights where passengers wouldn't get seats.
No matter the airline, though, restricting people with long delays from enjoying a cold one just feels cruel. Maybe the airlines themselves should just try harder to be on time.