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Time to Ban Alcohol on Airplanes? Revisiting the Controversy

January 11, 2010 | Posted in: Airline News,News,Passengers,Travel Safety

time ban alcohol airplanes planes controversy

Flying means plenty of hassles these days, what with tightened security — so should we continue to allow the volatile ingredient of alcohol onboard our airlines?

Should drinking be banned?

Okay, it would be the tyranny of the few over the majority of folks who enjoy a respite from the aforementioned hassles with a cocktail — and I’m talking about all those folks who do not lose control.

But those who can’t handle liquor can make flights for the sober-minded an incredible hassle, and here are some recent examples:

  • AirTran had to divert an Atlanta to San Francisco flight because an “unruly passenger” was disruptive and locked himself in a bathroom. The man appeared to be intoxicated.
  • Another “unruly passenger” aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight appeared intoxicated to seatmates, according to news reports; his actions eventually sent the plane back to the mainland, with an escort of military jets
  • A passenger aboard a Jet Airways flight in India got drunk and groped a flight attendant; fellow passengers had to help restrain him

Tell me — is the pleasure of having a few drinks aboard a plane worth these potential problems? Should alcohol be banned? Would the airlines ever allow this loss of revenue?

18 Responses to “Time to Ban Alcohol on Airplanes? Revisiting the Controversy”

  1. Gregg says:

    Don’t ban liquor (and I don’t drink), increase the penalty for drunk and disorderly on an airplane. AND make the drunk passenger responsible for the ENTIRE cost of any diversion of the plane or military escort.

  2. Rick Seaney says:

    Gregg,

    Harsh, but it could be effective. Anyone else?

    Rick

  3. Kirby says:

    I have never understood why liquor is served on planes. I think beer and wine would be all that is necessary. Those intoxicated passengers were most likely drinking long before they boarded those flights. People should have the decency to not get drunk in public. Never the less, I would be in favor of banning alcohol on domestic flights.

  4. Ken says:

    I don’t see why liquor should be banned just because of the irresponsible behavior of a handful of people. Deny boarding to anyone already inebriated, and arrest and prosecute anyone whose unruly or disruptive behavior requires a flight diversion.

  5. If liquor onboard was banned, is it a guarantee that this kind of behavior will stop? I don’t buy that for a second.

    You don’t have to be drunk to be “unruly” or “disruptive.” And if someone wants to drink, I’m pretty sure they can find an airport bar that will serve them. Do you get rid of those, too?

  6. Rick Seaney says:

    All,

    Great comments. I’m thinking that denying boarding to anyone already inebriated might make sense, but then again, I’d be the first to cry foul when all those breathalyzer tests start delaying the boarding process!

    Rick

  7. Rebecca says:

    I’ve had a drink while flying, but don’t have a problem with it being banned to minimize the likelihood of having to divert a flight because of bad behavior. There are also health & safety reasons, such as dehydration and needing to be alert in emergency situations.

  8. Rick Seaney says:

    Rebecca,

    You raise a good point: everyone needs to be alert in the event of an emergency situation.

    Thanks for writing.
    Rick

  9. S N says:

    I like Gregg’s suggestion. Don’t penalize those of us who want our daily drink, especially on a long flight!

  10. Adrian says:

    Hey! Don’t forget the pilots!
    Don’t drink and drive! [there were a couple of cases in 2009!]

  11. BAGDA B K says:

    ALCOHOL SHOULD BE TOTALLY BANNED. I HAVE SEEN MANY MANY CASES WHERE DRUNK PASSENGERS MISBAHEVES AND TALK VERY LOUDLY AND DISTURB FELLOW PASSENGERS. I THINK MANY AIRLINES DON NOT REPORT SUCH CASES. I HAVE TRAVELLED EXTENSIVELY. I HAVE ALSO TRAVELLED IN FLIGHTS WHICH DO NOT SERVE AND DO NOT ALLOW PASSENGERS TO USE THEIRS AND FOUND MORE COMFORTABLE. AFTER ALL ALCOHOL IS POISON.
    DRINKING POISION IS SUCIDE.

  12. Rick Seaney says:

    Adrian,

    Oh, I haven’t forgotten about the pilots. See the latest here: http://rickseaney.com/2010/01/05/united-pilot-pleads-guilty-to-being-above-alcohol-limits/

    Best,
    Rick

  13. Rick Seaney says:

    Bagda,

    Well, there are an awful lot of people who swear by their “poison”. Plus, I’ve sat near passengers that misbehaved, talked loudly and disturbed their seatmates, and they’d been imbibing nothing stronger that Mountain Dew.

    Appreciate your thoughts,
    Rick

  14. justcorbly says:

    Presumably, booze is sold onboard because it’s a revenue earner, but it can earn that much. How much booze would you need to sell to cover the costs of a single flight that doesn’t reach its destination?

    Why not try to limit the amount of alcohol offered onboard? Offer liquor once, one per customer, for as much time as it takes to make one run through the plane. Offer wine and beer only while serving meals.

    Also, flight crews must already have the authority to withhold booze from any passenger who appears intoxicated. Perhaps they should be more willing to use that authority.

    And, I really like the idea of making the drunks liable for the cost of any diversion or escort. Those F-16 jaunts don’t come cheap.

  15. L says:

    Having been a flight attendant and also a regular traveler, sitting longs
    hours beside someone that had too many, I can say, with conviction,
    please NO more.

  16. Rick Seaney says:

    Justcorbly and L,

    You’re both on to something. How about flight attendants only offer alcohol once, with a two drink limit? And any other beverage service would be soft drinks only. That might make it easier for crew members to stand up to the over-served and say, sorry, rules are rules.

    Rick

  17. Matt says:

    It would be effective, but so would banning cars in order to save lives. What ever happened to personal responsibility and accountability? I drink very rarely, but I don’t see why a few bad apples should ruin it for everyone else. Impose significant fines for any behavior requiring a plane to be diverted.

  18. Rick Seaney says:

    Matt,

    I don’t know what happened to personal responsibility and accountability, but with some folks, it does seem to be in short supply!

    Best,
    Rick

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