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Nordic-Baltic alcohol policy network urges airline companies and hotels to abandon free alcohol

Nina Kolyako, BC, Riga, 18.01.2013.Print version
Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN), with over 80 member organisations from Nordic and Baltic countries, calls airline companies to rethink their policies on alcohol and end giving out free alcohol on board as alcohol is no ordinary commodity and may cause serious problems in this extraordinary situation. NordAN also calls hotels to make hotel rooms alcohol-free and asks hotels to leave alcohol out of the hotel rooms minibars, informs BC secretary general Lauri Beekmann.

Most airlines do have a policy on alcohol. This usually comprise not admitting on board intoxicated persons and not serving excessive amounts. However, experience shows that airline staff often do not adhere to policies, one reason being that they have a pressure to be service minded. Many examples can be found on persons who have become intoxicated on flights to the point of posing a threat to passengers and the flight itself.


Alcohol is no ordinary commodity and flight altitude is no ordinary condition for human beings. Changes in air pressure, fatigue from flying, and especially dehydration all cause alcohol to be more potent than usual. With less water in the body, the effect of alcohol will be stronger will be higher, leading to quicker intoxication and increased potential for a hangover. People feeling thirsty may also drink more alcohol instead of water, when served freely.


Flying is a stressful event for many and alcohol may only heighten this stressful experience. Under increasingly stressful conditions, too much alcohol can make a simple annoyance into a serious problem.


Majority of people avoid places where others are drinking and getting drunk. Anywhere else, you can walk away from an unruly drunk. But not on a plane.


People who do not want to consume alcohol or be harassed by others who drink and especially children who also fly should be protected from this. As alcohol is an addictive substance there are many recovering alcoholics travelling among others.


They also might otherwise knowingly avoid places where alcohol is served, especially for free, and for them any flight could become a place for possible relapse.


Especially in the Nordic countries where alcohol availability is decreased through the monopoly retail system and restrictive alcohol policy has been successful in cutting alcohol related harms, serving free alcohol in airplanes clearly contradicts policies that are enforced on the ground.


For these reasons NordAN believes that flying should be made safe for everybody, and limiting access to alcohol is an important step. Requiring payment for alcohol drinks is at least one way to restrict access, if not totally abandoning. Staff should also be appropriately train to serve limited amounts. We also think that if alcohol is sold it is not ethical to put commercial interests above safety and public health.


NordAN calls hotels to leave alcohol out of the hotel rooms minibars. Especially in most of the Nordic countries where alcohol is sold at the monopoly stores where buyers age verification is guaranteed and the overall alcohol availability is through this system decreased, readily available alcohol in every hotel room contradicts the public health oriented alcohol policy that is in place in these countries.


Hotels are visited not only by adults but also by young people who could this way have unexpected access to alcohol. We have to also consider the fact that in our societies there is a big number of recovering alcoholics who knowingly avoid places where alcohol is served but find it available in their hotel rooms.


People are staying in hotels for different reasons and some might feel especially vulnerable, being away from home, sometimes for long periods of time. In this socially isolated situation readily available alcohol could encourage to indulge in binge drinking.


As alcohol is an addictive substance there are many recovering alcoholics traveling among others. They might otherwise knowingly avoid places where alcohol is served but finding themselves in hotel room where alcohol is accessible, the temptation can be overwhelming. We stress the need for societies at large to support recovering alcoholics in their struggle with addiction.


Alcohol is no ordinary commodity and hotels should not expect that alcohol is something that people should drink in their rooms. Easy availability of alcohol is proven to be associated with different social problems and every respectful institution should encourage their clients towards more healthy choices. Therefore we encourage hotels to sell only non-alcoholic drinks in minibars.

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