Airport Drinking Culture: A Great British Embarrassment?

Picture this: it’s 5am at the airport and you’ve just finished your fourth black coffee. Waiting for the 6am flight to Dubai, you see someone next to you sipping away at a bottle of red wine. Now don’t get me wrong – I love a good old Rioja on a Sunday evening, but before an early morning flight? A tad out of place, don’t you think?

Airport drinking culture is on the rise, manifested by even The Times publishing an article titled ‘The art of airport drinking’. It appears it has become one of those great British values, such as the making the right colour tea, or mastering the ‘y’alroight?’ when you bump into someone in town. This led me to reflect on whether I should actually hop aboard the airport drinking wagon and be proud of our ‘British roots’ instead. 

I thought of two good reasons why a cheeky little G&T isn’t such a bad thing whilst waiting for your early flight at Gatwick. Firstly, if you are a nervous flyer, then treating yourself to a tipple or two can ease your mood, especially in the current climate of terrorism and plane hijacks. I know the odds are very slim, but these nerves are natural. Or, if you’re going on a stag or hen do, chances are you’re going to be wearing dreadful Hawaiian shirts or pink feathery banners. If you need a pint (or four) to get through this, I’m not sure anyone will object. In fact, I’m fairly sure Spoons were put in airports for this exact reason.

However, I feel as though this is very different to a sweet family holiday, a business trip, or a cultural city break. I thought to myself- I wouldn’t whip out a hip flask of whisky before my 9am Politics lecture (yet…), so why would I drink before a weekend get-away to Berlin, or a business trip to New York? 

The fact of the matter is this: drinking at the airport should not evolve into a necessity or habit. There is a real danger of flying abroad becoming synonymous with drinking a pint. Surely Brits can enjoy themselves and relax without becoming tipsy? I don’t by any means think that drinking at the airport should be made illegal – as proposed by many individuals – I just consider there to be a right time and place. This seems to have been forgotten by many. 

I suppose my conclusion is that none of us need to rely on getting drunk to enjoy a flight. Rather, it comes down to the purpose of the trip and the people we are with.

Charlotte Abbott