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Mon 10 Sep 2018 10:12 AM

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Alcohol 'not prohibited' on flights to Dubai, says Emirates

Emirates airline clarifies the legality surrounding drinking on-board flights to UAE

Alcohol 'not prohibited' on flights to Dubai, says Emirates

Emirates has restated that alcohol consumption on its flights is "not prohibited", in a tweet from its Emirates Support account to a customer questioning whether drinking during a flight could lead to arrest in the UAE.

The tweet said: “Alcohol consumption is not prohibited on our flights. Furthermore, alcohol is served in the lounges in Dubai airport and available for purchase in the Duty Free.”

UK media reports have repeatedly questioned the legality of serving alcohol on-board flights to Dubai in recent weeks. The renewed interest follows the detention of Ellie Holman on July 13. The British-based dentist arrived on a flight from London’s Gatwick airport on an Emirates flight and was subsequently detained.

Holman told press in the UK that her detention was due to her drinking a glass of wine on the flight.

It later emerged that she had attempted to enter the UAE with a Swedish passport that had expired on June 10, and had used her phone to video the subsequent encounter with officials at the immigration counter.

She was left the UAE on August 12. Almost all of that time was spent at a private home.

Emirates statement

In a statement issued to the media yesterday, Emirates expanded on the information provided in its tweet.

“Emirates continues to invest in our food and beverage programme, which is an integral part of our in-flight experience," the statement said.

"However, like on any other airline, or indeed any hospitality establishment, unruly or disruptive behaviour from intoxication will not be tolerated, and there may be legal consequences. The safety and well-being of our passengers and crew on board will always be our top priority.”

UK Embassy statement

The UK Government's UK in the UAE Facebook page also attempted to clarify the legality of alcohol consumption in the UAE.

A post on September 7 read: “For clarity, there has been no change to the UK Government’s advice to British nationals on consuming alcohol in the UAE. Our Travel Advice for the UAE includes a section on alcohol, and we would encourage visitors and residents to read it here.”

It provided a link to the UK government’s travel advice section, which provides the following information:

Non-Muslim residents can get a liquor licence to drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. These licences are valid only in the Emirate that issued the licence. Residents must also get a permit to be able to drink in licensed venues.

Liquor licences are not available to non-residents, but it is possible for tourists and visitors to buy and drink alcohol in licensed venues, such as hotels, restaurants and clubs. However, you should be aware that it is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public. British nationals have been arrested and charged under this law, often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offence or matter, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour.

Generally, the legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi, but a Ministry of Tourism by-law prevents hotels from serving alcohol to those under the age of 21. In Dubai and all other emirates besides Sharjah, the drinking age is 21. Drinking alcohol in Sharjah is illegal.

Passengers in transit through the UAE under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.

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