Emirates has reiterated that drinking alcohol is "not prohibited" on its flights, in the wake of UK media reports questioning the legality of serving alcohol on board.
The airline’s Emirates Support account has replied to several customers over Twitter who asked whether they ran the risk of being arrested in the UAE for drinking alcohol during a flight.
In a reply to one concerned traveller, it 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.”
In a statement issued to The National, Emirates said it continued to "invest" in its food and beverage programme, but stated "unruly" behaviour from passengers under the influence of alcohol would not be tolerated.
"Emirates continues to invest in our food and beverage programme, which is an integral part of our in-flight experience," said the statement.
"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.”
The tweets were prompted by a string of stories in the British media on Friday, which erroneously claimed that British consular officials had issued a fresh warning to tourists to abstain from drinking alcohol on planes to the UAE following the arrest of Ellie Holman, a British-based dentist in Dubai in July, who had told press in the UK her brush with the law was due to her drinking a glass of wine on an Emirates plane.
It later emerged she was held after attempting to enter the country on an expired visa and using her phone to record discussions at the immigration counter.
The press coverage followed a post on the UK Government's UK in the UAE Facebook page on Thursday, which included a reminder to British nationals that they require a special licence to legally consume alcohol in the Emirates.
The UK in the UAE Facebook page clarified its position on Saturday, saying it had not changed the advice it gives British nationals on drinking alcohol in the UAE.
“If you hold a residence permit it is illegal to purchase or consume alcohol without a liquor licence. Carry it with you at all times, NB a licence is only valid in the Emirate that issued it,” said the post.
“If caught carrying or drinking alcohol without a licence or with alcohol in your blood, you can be arrested. It is a punishable offence to be under the influence of alcohol in public, including when transiting through the UAE.”
Tourists are unable to obtain a licence, it said. But it is possible for them to buy alcoholic drinks, says the foreign travel advice for the United Arab Emirates on gov.uk. The advice also pointed out that being under the influence of alcohol without a licence is an offence.
“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.”