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.