29 July 2016

Drunkenness

One of today's BBC news items surrounds the drinking of alcohol and air travel. It seems that around the world there at least fifty significant incidents of alcohol-fuelled air rage every day and in the last couple of years there have been  hundreds of arrests and plane diversions directly connected with drunken air travellers.

When Shirley and I flew to Kefalonia last month, our flight departed from East Midlands Airport at nine in the morning. I remember commenting on the fact that in the airside lounge where we had breakfast, there were several people drinking pints of lager or beer. I ask you - who in their right minds drinks beer at eight in the morning? And how can it be right to board a flight when you are feeling tipsy?

If I ruled the world, alcohol would not be sold in airport lounges. There's no need for it and it certainly does not sit well with safe air travel. Having said that, on board a plane during a long flight a small bottle of wine with a meal or a small can of beer should not cause any problems and may help travellers to snooze.

Today's news item reminded me of a flight I took to New York in May, 1975. Aboard the aeroplane were various young Britons like myself - all heading to American summer camps to work as counsellors. It had been a routine, uneventful flight but as we descended to JFK, a young man got up and headed for the lavatory at the front of the cabin. The cabin staff were already seated and buckled up ready for landing. One stewardess challenged the passenger but he claimed he was desperate for the toilet so he got his way and just managed to get back to his seat before touchdown.

I met this young man in the immigration queue. He was as drunk as a lord but I managed to discover that he was a university student like me and he was heading to a summer camp in the state of Maine. We were getting closer to the head of the queue and I advised him to get his passport out. "Where is it?" I asked. "Inmybag," he slurred, finding it difficult to simply stand still.

I unzipped his little canvas cabin bag and there I spotted his passport and other documents beneath a broken bottle of vodka. All the contents of his bag were soaked in vodka. It was at this point that he said he needed to visit the toilet again. I left the queue and steered him towards the lavatories. Before we could get there, he unzipped his flyhole and near a large potted palm began to urinate against a terminal wall,

I thought to myself, "I don't need this" and left the stupid fellow to find a member of the airport security staff. I got back in the immigration queue and a few minutes later I spotted the drunken idiot clutching hsi vodka-soaked bag in a wheelchair, accompanied by three security people. I have no doubt that he was about to be deported back to England and may not have even remembered his very brief stay in The States.

What was he thinking of, getting so drunk that he never experienced a glorious, life-enriching summer as a camp counsellor? And what kind of an ambassador was he for our country?

No. In my humble opinion, drunkenness and air travel do not belong together. In this matter, airports and airlines must bear a large share of the guilt as their focus is mostly upon profit and alcohol sales help that mission. However, passengers should also realise that they owe it to other travellers and cabin staff to be sober, self-controlled and sensible.

21 comments:

  1. For all too many holidaymakers these days, it seems to be de rigeur to drink as much as you can for as long as you can. It's very sad.

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    1. At Floc Ferme in L'Ariege, France my brother Robin once hosted a mature couple from North Wales. When they left he had to clear up forty seven empty wine bottles and several binbags filled with empty beer bottles. They had only been at the place for a week!

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  2. What part of the USA did you work in that summer?

    (And if the drunken guy got deported I'll bet he felt awful when he finally sobered up...and probably had a terrible hangover to boot).

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    1. in 75 and 76 I worked at a camp near Cleveland, Ohio.

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  3. Whenever I go to England I always have a few drinks to ease my passage, never enough to be inebriated though. Just sufficient to be able to face the dreary stuffed shirted brigade with their knife edge creased trousers.

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    1. Gosh, Heron, you must go on a "posh" flight ! Don't normally have that problem with Ryanair or EasyJet !

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    2. To "ease my passage" I use laxatives.

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  4. Agree with your comments YP. The trouble is that some people are still nervous about flying, and feel that a little drink, or two, or three, or more, will help calm the nerves. Unfortunately whereas some sleep it off, others get abusive or aggressive, and ruin the flight for everyone.
    Alcohol should not be sold at Airports and these days it's to be hoped that people can no longer smuggle the odd bottle or two in with their hand luggage.

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    1. Everybody is a little bit nervous about flying but mot of us don't get pissed up before boarding aeroplanes.

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  5. It seems contradictory that so much security is in place these days when you travel - we are not even allowed to have a lipstick in our handbags without getting it out and putting it into one of those 1-litre-plastic bags - and yet people are allowed (almost encouraged) to drink themselves senseless before and during a flight.
    I am nervous before flying, too, but I have never in my life used alcoholic drinks to fight nervousness.

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    1. I agree with you - there is a contradiction.

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  6. I think some culprits are just in stupid holiday mood
    And some fear air travel

    I think there is physiological changes that occur in the brain when drinking and flying

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    1. Yes the way that alcohol affects people when flying is rather different from drinking in a pub on a warm evening.

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  7. We had a similar case here a couple of weeks ago...some yobbos on a trip to Phuket.

    The six men(read "idiots") were detained by police after a wild fight broke out on a Jetstar flight bound for Phuket. The flight had to be diverted to Bali. They were sent back to Australia and arrested upon arrival. They still could be fined the costs incurred by the diversion....I hope they are. The fine will run into tens of thousands of dollars.

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    1. I also hope they have to pay the full amount and what about the other sober passengers they inconvenienced? Each one of them deserves compensation.

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  8. The flyer certainly has to take responsibility for their own actions. However, money talks and the drunk parts with more money than the sober people.

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    1. Using this logic I could judge your drinking habits by checking your bank balance Red. Please send details.

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  9. It's weird how people's sense of time disappears as soon as they start their holiday, ie at the airport. They probably wouldn't dream of drinking beer for breakfast at home, but find it perfectly okay when they're waiting for a flight.

    Then there are those who open their duty free on board the plane, presumably because they don't want to pay airline prices.

    But the worst example of non-stop boozing was on a flight to Doha. A large gentleman in Arab dress, a Quatari I'm guessing, sank double vodka after double vodka from take-off to landing. I guess he was making the most of things before arriving in his 'dry' homeland.

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    1. In transit, nobody knows who we are and in a sense we can be free of normal expectations. That's why I usually wear a dog collar and carry an old bible. A direct counterpoint to the sheikh from Qatar.

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  10. I agree with the conclusion in your final paragraph. However the greed for profit (which, of course, also keeps our fares slightly lower) makes it unlikely alcohol will not be sold as frequently and as widely as possible. It will probably take some catastrophic event before the airlines and authorities take action.

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    1. I share your pessimism Graham.

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