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Inflight Safety: Should Airlines Limit Alcohol Orders?
Earlier this week, a flight from Los Angeles to London had to make an emergency landing after a drunk man tried to kick out a window mid-flight. This isn’t the first time someone got too drunk or acted out on a flight. Last year, a man began throwing objects “including his carry-on luggage, at other passengers; refusing to stay seated; lying on the floor in the aisle, refusing to get up, and then grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and putting his head up her skirt.” The many accounts of unruly passengers have all led to the American Airlines flight attendants’ union requesting a two-alcoholic drink limit per economy passenger, per flight. If implemented, it would be the first policy of its kind.
Will A Drink Limit Work?
So what’s really to blame here? Pandemic fatigue? Inflight booze?
AFA’s president Sara Nelson pushes for a wider ban on in-flight alcohol consumption. “The incidents of violence on planes are out of control and alcohol is often a contributor,” Nelson said in a statement, according to the Washington Post. “The federal government should provide guidance to airlines and airports on pausing alcohol sales for a period of time.”
This wouldn’t be the first time airlines stop selling alcohol on flights. In 2021, many airlines stopped the sale of alcohol until mask mandates were lifted. Southwest airlines even extended the ban further due to unruly passengers. There has been a growing number of angry travelers directing their ire at flight attendants, who say they have been facing an unprecedented number of verbal and physical assaults.
Enforcing a limit wouldn’t be the worst thing as it is not a full ban. It’d be interesting to see if it in fact does curb this epidemic of drunken and violent behavior. However, how would airlines control those who board the flight almost wasted from alcohol they purchased at airport bars or duty-free? While aviation laws the world over the state an intoxicated person shouldn’t be allowed on a plane, it’s not always easy to spot a drunk especially if the alcohol has yet to fully kick in. So would limiting inflight drinks even make a dent in the problem? Would the limit be based on how long the flight is?
The Bottom Line:
The relationship between alcohol consumption and violent behavior is a larger societal problem that needs more of a public health approach. Although for the immediate safety of flight attendants and passengers, a limit doesn’t sound so bad. Bad would be the cases for people who feel they can’t go the duration of their flight without a sip of alcohol — as this would in fact imply a drinking problem that needs addressing.