As a frequent air traveller, taking on average around 40 flights a year, I enjoy a glass of wine with my meal, particularly on a long-haul flight. It still amazes me that I can sit in a reasonably comfortable seat, watching a series of movies, eating and drinking at 35,000 feet. Flying is a truly miraculous experience!
However, I am becoming more and more concerned about the disruption caused to flights, by people under the influence of alcohol. On recent flights from the UK, I have witnessed guys making sexual comments to female flight attendants, people bringing vodka on board disguised in water bottles and then getting more inebriated as the journey progresses. On one flight, moments before landing, the flight attendants had to shout at a drunk passenger who was walking down the aisle; oblivious to the danger he posed to himself and other passengers.
These are fairly mild situations compared to some of the horrors we are reading about. Here is a recent excerpt from a severe incident:
Essex Police confirmed officers arrested a 25-year-old woman on suspicion of common assault, criminal damage and endangering an aircraft. She has been released on bail until August 21. Witnesses earlier revealed how they were in fear for their lives after their fellow passenger went for the exit door.
Amy Varol, who sat two rows behind, told The Sun Online: "The woman was walking down the aisle when she literally ran to the exit door.
"She had her hands on the handle trying to open it. Luckily there were two cabin crew there who pulled her off the door. She was punching, kicking and screaming at the stewards, they were trying to stop her but they had no chance
Ms Varol continued: "She started assaulting the two crew members, a woman and a man. A big guy then literally threw her down to the floor and there was one person holding one arm and another person holding the other. Then a man sat on her and one person was holding her leg and someone else holding the other one. That's when she started screaming 'get off me, I'm going to kill everyone'."
Every week there seems to be another report of a plane being diverted owing to drunken disruptive passengers. This causes distress to flight crews, fellow travellers and particularly young children.
At airports, we go through a screening process to ensure that we do not pose a security risk to aircraft and passengers. Yet "drunken terrorists" are free to terrorise others in the confined space of an aircraft. They pose a real threat to the safety of the travelling public.
Is it now time for airlines to take action and ban alcohol on all flights? I see no reason why this should not be possible.
Remember how it was just a few years ago when people were allowed to smoke onboard? Every time I checked in, I hoped I would not be seated at the back of the plane where you could see the blue cloud of cigarette smoke hovering throughout the entire flight. Since the late 1980s airlines have been smoke free zones and even hardened smokers seem to be able to survive a flight without a cigarette. They no longer have any other option.
What ideas would you suggest to tackle the problem of drunk flying? I have a few:
1 Deliver Duty Free Purchases of alcohol in a sealed bag to the passenger at the aircraft door, so that there is less likelihood of it being siphoned off into harmless looking water bottles pre-flight. This procedure is routine at many airports in the USA.
2 Bring in stricter controls on bars and restaurants at the airports. Enjoy a few drinks by all means, but no-one needs to get paralytic before boarding a plane.
3 On short haul flights, no alcohol should be served to any passenger. Surely we can survive a few hours without a drink.
4 As part of the safety briefing before a flight, crews should explain the zero tolerance policy for drunken behaviour, in the same way that smoking is treated.
1 Anyone found to be consuming alcohol which they have brought on board, should be prosecuted by the airline. No second chances.
2 Anyone who is abusive to fellow passengers or flight crew as a result of being intoxicated, should be prosecuted and banned from that airline for life.
3 Also there could be a ban on flying with other airlines for a 12 month period. Similar to what happens if you are caught drink/driving. Not unreasonable.
4 Anyone who causes a flight to be diverted because of drunken, abusive behaviour should pay something towards the cost that the airline incurs. Steve Heapy the Chief Executive of Jet2 has billed the disruptive passenger described in the earlier part of this blog, a whopping £85,000. Read the report.
Maybe this seems a little draconian; but to ensure safety and security for the majority of the travelling public, something has to change.
Read this recent article by travel writer Simon Calder. WHY THE ERA OF DRINKING AND FLYING COULD BE OVER