Three MAG-owned airports are to trial a government-endorsed responsible drinking initiative in the face of increased concerns over alcohol-fuelled air rage.

The Home Office-backed Best Bar None (BBN) programme is starting a pilot scheme at Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports.

The trial, to be introduced in the next few weeks at 50 venues across the three airports, will be evaluated by qualified assessors with a view to gaining accreditation, the airports group revealed today (Tuesday).

The aim is to improve standards of airside alcohol sales across the UK’s biggest airport group which handles 60 million passengers a year.

Best Bar None, which has been running for more than 15 years, works with the alcohol industry, police and local authorities to promote responsible alcohol consumption and higher professional licensing standards in pubs, bars, clubs and entertainment venues across the UK.

Since the creation of an industry code of practice two years ago, the aviation sector has been working together to help reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents of disruptive behaviour.

The Home Office announced in November that it was launching a call for evidence to seek views on whether introducing alcohol licensing laws at airports in England and Wales could help tackle drunk and disruptive passengers on aircraft.

It will also help to assess the impact that extending the Licensing Act 2003 might have on businesses. The call for evidence closes on February 1.

Best Bar None chairman Lord Smith of Hindhead said: “Incidences of drunk and disorderly passengers in airports or on board aircraft are fortunately relatively few and far between, but when they do happen, they present a real threat to both staff and fellow passengers.

“Ensuring that all premises within airports are recognised for delivering the appropriate training, followed by rigorous checks and assessment through the Best Bar None scheme, will help to reinforce existing work being done to minimise any disruptive behaviour caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

“If the trial is successful, we will look to roll it out to more airports across the country, hopefully negating the need to introduce additional regulation through the implementation of high street licensing laws in airports.”

Best Bar None spent time preparing a scheme compatible with the practicalities of airside alcohol retailing before agreeing to work with MAG to deliver the pilot.

Ongoing participation in the scheme is then expected to become a condition of trading in the airports. Staff working in MAG airport lounges will have to undertake and pass a responsible alcohol retailing test.

An annual assessment covers operational standards, policies and procedures, as well as the education and training of staff. Approved premises become part of the BBN network and given a certificate and window-sticker to promote to consumers.

An action plan for those who fail to reach the required standards will be provided to enable improvement to BBN standards.

Aviation minister Liz Sugg said: “Everyone should be able to enjoy their journeys through airports, which is why drunk and disruptive behaviour will not be tolerated and offenders face up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine.

“We continue to work with airports and airlines to tackle disorderly passengers and I am pleased to see MAG and Best Bar None working together to help make sure air travel is a positive experience for everyone.”

MAG group corporate affairs director Graeme Elliott said: “As an airport operator we believe our passengers have a right to buy alcohol in duty free or enjoy a drink in a bar or restaurant at the start of their holiday before their flight departs.

“But we are also clear that passengers drinking alcohol must always be responsible and should never impact on the enjoyment or safety of any other passenger.

“This scheme will help provide further assurance that MAG and our partners are doing our bit by demonstrating the highest standards of responsible alcohol sales, and we take every opportunity to remind passengers that if they are drunk they will not be able to fly.

“We also work with airlines, retailers and the police to help pass messages to colleagues around the airport, including airline staff at the gates, letting them know of potentially disruptive passengers.

“This partnership with Best Bar None is the latest example of MAG leading the industry in finding ways to further reduce the small number of incidents of alcohol-related disruptive behaviour.”

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