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Should alcohol be banned on flights?

I think even those without any interest in aviation matters cannot have failed to hear of airliners being diverted off their course to land and expel a passenger, or two, into the hands of some foreign police force because they had caused serious disruption on board, nearly always due to drunkenness.

This is becoming a severe matter both for the travelling public and the airlines, especially when considering that the frequency of such in-flight disruption is far greater than those we hear about when aircraft are diverted. Very often disruptive passengers are dealt with by the police at the destination and these don’t get to be reported to the press.

Well, let’s start by stating where the law stands regarding alcohol on aircraft and the passengers who drink it.

So why with so much potential for law breaking and with some extremely stiff penalties, including serious jail time, is alcohol still readily available?

Taking each aspect in turn. It is often difficult for cabin crew to identify or intercept intoxicated passengers when boarding, especially those where there are groups of high-spirited holidaymakers excitingly starting their vacation. It’s not unusual for such groups to spend considerable time prior to departure drinking in the departure lounge bars, then when on board, due to the effects of altitude, intoxication can be rapidly accelerated. The passenger can become quickly dehydrated causing their further need to drink.

Before stating what the cabin crew can do about intoxicated passengers, it’s most important to say that contrary to what appears to be popular belief, a Flight attendant is not a waiter or waitress, and are not bartenders. They are In-Flight Safety officers, responsible for all aspects of internal safety of each flight from the flight deck door to the tail of the aircraft.

Their training is extremely intense and thorough, covering everything from aircraft evacuation on land and sea, firefighting, medical emergencies and a mass of flight rules and regulations. Inflight service, that of serving food and drinks, is far down the priorities for a flight attendant.

Cabin crew are therefore appointed, trained and thoroughly tested for their abilities to undertake those important safety aspects of a flight. They are not appointed for their physical abilities to restrain or fight with drunks!

Passengers must be made aware, and come to terms with the fact, that a Flight Attendant has considerable authority on the aircraft, and their instructions, requests, and orders if they become that, must be complied with by law. Just as those of a police officer.

What the cabin crew can do however, is to stop serving alcohol, or for that matter, any form of provided service, to a disruptive passenger, then through the senior flight attendant can request the passenger be restrained if necessary and the Captain notified for consideration for flight diversion to hand over the passenger to police.

At that point, the further offence of endangering an aircraft in flight would be added to being intoxicated as a passenger. Any threat of, or violence toward a crew member, a very serious offence, would be added to the charges brought.

As these incidences are ever increasing in seriousness, the authorities in all countries will likely increase sentencing for those found guilty of them, and the two years in prison for drunkenness and five years for endangering an aircraft will be increased and with the statutory fines be added to the airline diversion costs, of between £10,000 to £80,000.

So should we pressure airlines and airports to ban all serving of alcohol at all times? I think if trends we are seeing of serious disruption to passengers and crew safety, and to their travel continue, it is inevitable.

However, perhaps the airlines, airport owners and National aviation administrators could get together and provide a lengthy advertising campaign illustrating the dangers and consequences of in-flight disruption.
It would be sad indeed if we all should suffer the consequences of the actions of a very few who cause fear, and disruption on our flights and the inevitable increase in the costs of our holidays too!

What do you think? let us know your views in the comments below or on social media and

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