Airports try to ground drinks law
Ryanair continues in-flight alcohol sales despite calls for drinks cap in terminals
Airports are pressuring the government for dispensation to sell low-cost alcohol by linking retail sales to fees airlines pay to land in Ireland.
It comes as Ryanair confirmed it will keep selling alcohol on its flights despite calling for a cap on the amount of drink passengers should be allowed to buy and consume in airports before travelling.
The Sunday Independent can reveal Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney was asked by Cork Airport and Aer Rianta International (ARI) to lobby for airport exemptions in the new Public Health Alcohol Bill. Health warnings will be included on labels under the bill but airports want to be excluded from these requirements to reduce packaging costs for their suppliers.
ARI contacted Mr Coveney last year to express opposition to the proposed labelling requirements. It operates duty- free outlets worldwide and reminded the minister it has an operation in his constituency at Cork Airport.
Separately, Cork Airport lobbied the minister earlier this year. Both organisations linked strong retail sales with lower landing fees. Airlines must pay landing fees to touch down at an airport. Expensive airports are unattractive to low-fare airlines who have diverted expensive routes to cheaper destinations.
In correspondence obtained by the Sunday Independent under Freedom of Information, Niall McCarthy, managing director of Cork Airport, claimed the labelling rules would make Irish airports less competitive destinations.
He added this would impact Mr Coveney's own constituency, claiming local businesses would be forced to absorb the cost of producing separate labels for domestic and international markets.
"The regions we support will be placed at a disadvantage, given Irish Duty Free and Travel Retail (DFTR) directly contributes to the maintenance of low landing charges and provides small Irish manufacturers with exposure to the international customer market passing through our airports."
ARI global head of buying, John Healy, claimed international brands would leave the market if new label rules were introduced. "As many as 87pc of the international brands we stock at present do not sell at significant volume for the supplier to tailor an Irish exclusive-compliant labelling and they will simply pull their supply from Irish airports.
"DFTR should be subject to the same labelling requirements as the on-trade (hotels, restaurants and bars), where an off-the-pack solution is permitted, to minimise the commercial impact on Irish suppliers and airports whilst achieving the proposed health principles."
Ryanair will continue to sell drink on flights despite calling for a two-drink limit for passengers waiting in the departures lounge before boarding. "This is an airport-related issue so the question doesn't arise," said Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs.