Over 2 million brits exceed weekly allowance of alcohol on a single flight

New research1 from travel insurance specialist Columbus Direct reveals UK holidaymakers are consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol while flying. Over 2 million Brits have drunk in in excess of their weekly allowance of alcohol on just one flight in the last five years, ordering 15 units or more during the journey. Alcohol consumption in the air is a health and security issue, as a quarter (23 per cent) of those who have drunk on a plane in the last five years admit to drinking more in the air than on the ground.

Of those who have drunk on a flight in the last five years, the most alcohol they have consumed on a single flight is six units of alcohol, on average, nearly half the recommended weekly intake of alcohol (14 units2). This is equivalent to three glasses of wine or six gin and tonics2. In fact, 7.6 million passengers (20 per cent) have had more than five units of alcohol on a flight in the last five years.

David Boon, the legendary Australian cricketer infamously downed 52 cans of Victoria Bitter on a flight to Heathrow from Sydney, drinking an estimated 89.7 UK units. Brits freely admit to drinking excessive quantities, with some claiming to have consumed more than 40 units on a single flight.

Passengers boozing in-flight is resulting in more than just a hangover. Nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of UK adults who have drunk on a flight in the last 5 years have been ill after drinking on a flight, with one in 20 (five per cent) needing help from on-board flight staff. More than two million4 boozy travellers had to see a doctor or go to the hospital after consuming too much alcohol.

Almost half (44 per cent) of Brits who admit to drinking more when flying than they would normally say they do so because they are nervous when flying. The second most popular reason for in flight boozing is that the alcohol is free, with 43 per cent taking advantage of the complimentary beverages served on board. Over a third (38 per cent) of those who drink more do so simply because they enjoy drinking while flying, perhaps due to the effects of consuming alcohol whilst flying. Some commentators believe low air pressure in the cabin at altitude thins the blood5, potentially making the effects of alcohol stronger.

Men are more likely to be guilty of excessive drinking than women, consuming almost double the amount of booze in flight compared to women. The average male passenger consumed 7.4 units while female passengers drank 4.2 units on their booziest flight in the last five years. When asked why they feel inclined to drink on board, women are most likely to say it’s because they are nervous (36 per cent) while men confess to taking advantage of the open bar (53 per cent). A quarter of men who drink on board a plane (25 per cent) have been ill during a journey, compared with eight per cent of women who confess to drinking on planes.

Alison Wild, Head of Travel Insurance at Columbus Direct, said: “Jetting off on holiday is both an exciting and sometimes stressful experience and holidaymakers often find alcohol helps them relax and enjoy themselves. However, we urge passengers to drink responsibly by enjoying alcohol in moderation, not only for their own wellbeing, but for the consideration of other passengers on board. No-one wants the additional stress of their holiday beginning with a hospital visit and being mindful of alcohol consumption during the flight can help avoid this. Travellers should ensure they are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy in the event of their health taking a turn for the worse whilst abroad.”

Beyond the health implications, being intoxicated in flight is illegal and can carry punishment. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has identified disruptive passengers as one of the main reasons for aircraft diversion and highlights that drinking to the point of being disruptive may have safety implications6. Airlines also have a right to refuse boarding or service to passengers classified as disruptive. If your flight is diverted due to someone’s behaviour, the airline may ask that passenger to reimburse the costs which can be more than £80,000. Additionally, the punishment can be up to five years in prison and carry other financial penalties.


Source: Columbus Direct

1 Research conducted by Opinium between 29 August – 31 August amongst 1,458 adults aged 18 and over who have travelled on a plane in the last 5 years
3 73 per cent of people have been on a flight in the last five years and there are 51,767,000 UK adults. 73 per cent of UK adults = 37,531,719. 20 per cent of 37, 531,719= 7,645,350
4 40 per cent of UK adults have drunk on a plane in the last 5 years = 20,593536. 11 per cent of them have had to go to hospital/ see a doctor = 2,162,321

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