Alcohol-Restriction-Sign-2013-07-23

Up, up and away!

A fortnight ago an Australian plane was diverted to Bali, on its path from Sydney to Phuket, to remove six friends who had started a fight on board. They were very drunk and very violent. Across the world there are regular reports of people being so drunk and aggressive that planes are diverted mid-flight.

In 2014 International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that in the period 2007-2014 there were over 38,230 reported cases of unruly passenger incidents on board aircraft in flight. They even produced an infographic to demonstrate the issues.  Intoxication, often resulting from alcohol consumed before boarding, ranks high among factors linked to these incidents.

Flight Attendant Serving a Drink

If the main issue is that passengers who board a plane are already intoxicated, further work needs to be done to prevent the intoxication in the first place. Bars and lounges at airports need to monitor the alcohol consumption of passengers in accordance with the responsible serving of alcohol.

A survey conducted by Cheapflights.co.uk mentions highlights that 28% of respondents admitted that they had had too much before getting on a plane. Nine out of ten (91%) found the whole pre-holiday period so stressful that having a drink at the airport helped.  (A drink?).

You might think having intoxicated people on a flight is the last thing the crew want to handle in an emergency – people who are argumentative, passed out, falling over, and blocking the way to an exit, confused, unable to undo their seatbelt.

In the UK, the new aviation minister, Lord Ahmad, has announced he will examine the way alcohol is sold at airports amid a spate of incidents on planes involving drunk passengers. Some of these initiatives could include restrictions on licensing hours, drink limits and pre-boarding checks.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

As Grogwatch has noted previously, one problem is liquor licensing laws and regulations that apply on the ground to control the serving and consumption of alcohol do not apply to aeroplanes in flight. So airlines are not required by law to serve alcohol responsibly in the air.

That is hard to understand and we hope it won’t take a tragedy to happen before this is taken seriously by those in charge of the airline industry. We wonder whether flight attendants, and their unions, see this as an issue of workplace safety.

In the meantime, perhaps more scrutiny is needed for serving practices in licensed venues at our airports to prevent people getting intoxicated before boarding.

Something to think about when they instruct you to make sure you are buckled up, for safety’s sake.


Written by: Julie Rae and Geoff Munro