Alcohol and flying

NordAN resolution: Airline companies should ban free alcohol

NordAN resolution adopted at the 2012 General Assembly in Malmö (Sweden).

Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN), with over 80 member organisations from Nordic and Baltic countries, calls airline companies to rethink their policies on alcohol and end giving out free alcohol on board as alcohol is no ordinary commodity and may cause serious problems in this extraordinary situation.

Most airlines do have a policy on alcohol. This usually comprise not admitting on board intoxicated persons and not serving excessive amounts. However, experience shows that airline staff often do not adhere to policies, one reason being that they have a pressure to be service minded. Many examples can be found on persons who have become intoxicated on flights to the point of posing a threat to passengers and the flight itself.

Alcohol is no ordinary commodity and flight altitude is no ordinary condition for human beings. Changes in air pressure, fatigue from flying, and especially dehydration all cause alcohol to be more potent than usual. With less water in the body, the effect of alcohol will be stronger, leading to quicker intoxication and increased potential for a hangover. People feeling thirsty may also drink more alcohol instead of water, when served freely.

Flying is a stressful event for many and alcohol may only heighten this stressful experience. Under increasingly stressful conditions, too much alcohol can make a simple annoyance into a serious problem.

Majority of people avoid places where others are drinking and getting drunk. Anywhere else, you can walk away from an unruly drunk. But not on a plane.

People who do not want to consume alcohol or be harassed by others who drink and especially children who also fly should be protected from this.

As alcohol is an addictive substance there are many recovering alcoholics travelling among others. They also might otherwise knowingly avoid places where alcohol is served, especially for free, and for them any flight could become a place for possible relapse.

Especially in the Nordic countries where alcohol availability is decreased through the monopoly retail system and restrictive alcohol policy has been successful in cutting alcohol related harms, serving freealcohol in airplanes clearly contradicts policies that are enforced on the ground.

For these reasons NordAN believes that flying should be made safe for everybody, and limiting access toalcohol is an important step. Requiring payment for alcohol drinks is at least one way to restrict access, if not totally abandoning. Staff should also be appropriately trained to serve limited amounts. We also think that if alcohol is sold it is not ethical to put commercial interests above safety and public health.

Tim Colehan´s (Assistant Director of the International Air Transport Association) presentation that he gave at the Riga NordAN conference in October 2014. View the PRESENTATION "Alcohol and flying: IATA´s resolution regarding unruly air passenger behavior".

NordAN´s points of concern as a reaction to IATA´s policy principles and priorities. (October 2014)

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Daily Record (August 5 2013) – Holiday flight horror as 30 drunken thugs rampage on plane to Ibiza
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Irish Central (August 2, 2013) – Manhattanite who spat at flight attendant avoids jail
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AIN Online (July 8 2013) – Pilot Faces Prison for Flying While Drunk
A commercial pilot for Orlando-based Flight Express, a subsidiary of Columbus, Ohio’s AirNet Cargo, is facing a maximum of 15 years in a federal prison after pleading guilty last month to operating an aircraft while under the influence on December 8 last year.

Travelandleisure (June 26 2013) – No Booze on Aeroflot Flight To Havana. Whah?!
The Moscow-Havana route is one of seven long-distance itineraries on which Aeroflot has bannedalcohol in economy class. Why? Just watch the video above to get a sampling of the verbal assaults, fisticuffs, and other liquor-induced ill behavior seen on hundreds of Aeroflot flights every year. And now some legislators are considering even more stringent measures to stop the moonshine madness.

ITAR-TASS (February 5 2013) – Russia to take hard line against rowdyism on board airliners
Russia is going to declare a war on drunk passengers, whose rowdy behavior on board airliners has remained practically unpunished so far. This problem does exist in other countries, too, but bearing in mind some domestic habits (many of Russia’s holidaymakers just cannot imagine flying to a health resort without a good portion of good booze consumed on the way) especially while on vacation, it has acquired really scaring dimensions of late.

NY Daily News (January 4 2013) – Drunk and bound Icelandic Air passenger caught on tape wailing like wild animal
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My (January 4, 2013) – Drunken woman detained on Newark flight
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CNN (January 4 2013) – Pilot arrested after security agent smells alcohol
A pilot in Minnesota who was preparing to fly a commercial jet halfway across the country was arrested after a security agent smelled alcohol on him and he failed a preliminary breath test, airport police said Friday.
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ChiefOfficers.Net (December 18 2012) –Aviation: drunken Aussie grounds Qantas flight
Qantas had to divert a flight out of Sydney en route to Japan last night after a passenger became “heavily intoxicated,” the Australian Federal Police (AFP) allege.
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TravelersToday (January 3 2013) – British Airways Flight Makes Emergency Landing Due to Two Drunk, Unruly Women
A British Airways flight had to make an emergency landing because two drunk women were being unruly and tried to storm the cockpit.
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The Age (December 18 2012) – Qantas flight grounded after drunk passenger allegedly spits at crew
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Times of Malta (December 25 2012) – Drunk passenger makes bomb threat on flight
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TravelHouseUK (December 13 2012) – Drinking Alcohol becomes a Major Influence for Problem in Passenger Cabins
Passenger issues which have escalated to harsh arguments, violent outbursts or even chaotic situations mostly involve intoxicated passengers. Intoxication cases generally include passengers under the influence of alcohol.
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RIA Novosti (Russia) – Russia Mulls Ban on Duty-Free Alcohol on Planes
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