LARISSA NOLAN RYANAIR has provoked the ire of alcohol awareness groups for selling a controversial vodka shot in a "happy hour" promotion to passengers on board.
The airline is selling Bullseye Baggies, banned in Irish pubs and off-licences last year, at the special rate of two for ?5.
The promotion has sparked outrage from campaigners, who have branded the promotion "reckless".
Ryanair passengers can buy 25ml of vodka, gin or rum and get another 25ml free - and all for just ?5.
Bullseye Baggies, easily stored pouches of spiritssimilar to sachets of ketchup or vinegar sold at fast-food restaurants, were banned here last year after complaints they were proving attractive to children.
The Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol Society (MEAS) and alcohol addiction counsellors have criticised the buy-one-get-one-free offer on board Ryanair flights.
MEAS CEO Fionnuala Sheehan said that thedrinks' offer infringesthe group's guidelines on alcohol promotions.
"It is precisely his kind of promotion being offered by Ryanair that we advise against. However, as the company runs international flights out of Ireland, it does not come under the jurisdiction of the code."
Stephen Rowen, director of the Rutland Centre for Addiction in Dublin, describedthe offer as "reckless and irresponsible".
He said: "This is a form of happy hour in the sky. It is an invitation to over-drinking that contributes to the severe problem of alcoholism inthis country.
"There is also the issueof aggression on planes, inan enclosed space where itis not so easy to solveany problems."
Mr Rowen added that most people will drink the extra alcohol, whether they wanted to or not.
"If it is free, people will take it. It is unnecessarily giving passengers more alcohol."
But Ryanair press spokesperson Pauline McAlester shook off the criticism. "We do not feel that this offer is in any way irresponsible. We decided to adopt the Bullseye Baggies promotion on Ryanair flights and it is proving to be hugely popular.
"There is no limit as to what a passenger can drink as such, but it is at the cabin crew'sdiscretion. Also, Ryanair flights are very short so it would not be possible to drink very much."
Aviation psychologists believe that the majority of violence on aeroplanes is as a result of alcohol.
Virgin Airlines head Richard Branson has previously said that for this reason, he believes alcohol should be banned on all flights.