Skip to main content

No one likes drunks on planes

By Benét J. Wilson
January 25, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
Jennifer Lauren, niece of Ralph Lauren, got "dangerously drunk" recently on board a Delta Air Lines flight and was fined 2,000 euros for unruly behavior. Jennifer Lauren, niece of Ralph Lauren, got "dangerously drunk" recently on board a Delta Air Lines flight and was fined 2,000 euros for unruly behavior.
HIDE CAPTION
Fueled by alcohol
Fueled by alcohol
Fueled by alcohol
Fueled by alcohol
Fueled by alcohol
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Benét Wilson: Let's not be shocked by drunken passengers misbehaving on planes
  • Wilson: Intoxicated passengers who become abusive should be prosecuted
  • She says flight attendants are the last line of defense against inebriated travelers
  • Wilson: Airlines should also impose fees and/or limit on the number of drinks

Editor's note: Benét J. Wilson is an aviation and travel journalist. She blogs at AviationQueen.com and has worked for two airlines and an aircraft engine manufacturer.

(CNN) -- "The (airline) bar is closed." More flight attendants should say that to more passengers.

This might seem like heresy to the millions of travelers who enjoy free drinks in the upper classes and on international flights, but maybe it's time airlines consider putting a cap on drinks, or charging passengers for their alcohol after the first drink or two.

Recently, Jennifer Lauren, niece of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, was allegedly misbehaving on a Delta Air Lines flight after getting "dangerously drunk" and abusive toward other passengers. It got so bad that the New York bound plane made an unscheduled stop in Ireland to remove her from the flight. She was arrested for endangering other passengers.

Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson

Let's not be shocked by this. These days, a month doesn't go by that I don't hear about an intoxicated passenger getting into fights with flight crews or their fellow travelers.

The Jennifer Lauren episode is fresh in our memory, but drunks on planes are nothing new. A few years ago, French actor Gérard Depardieu made the headlines when he, allegedly drunk, urinated in the aisle during an Air France flight from Paris to Dublin, Ireland.

And let's not forget "Dracula" star Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who was banned from flying on United Airlines after drinking heavily in the carrier's first class lounge in a flight from New York to Los Angeles. The crew noticed he had become belligerent and disruptive, so they refused to let him board the flight to L.A.

In an August 2013 report on unruly passengers, the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines from around the world, noted that "many" carriers said alcohol was the major contributor to disruptive behavior. "They observed that passengers, in numerous instances, may have been intoxicated at the time of boarding the aircraft or had access to their own alcohol supply on board."

Similarly, the Toronto-based International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers said air rage tends to occur in unfamiliar and over-stimulating environments, including airports and airplanes. The rage is fueled by "overcrowding, delays, lack of information, lack of manners and boorish behavior, as well as arguments with transportation or service personnel." Furthermore, "Heightened stress levels, alcohol and drug misuse, as well as smoking prohibitions in many public places, are common factors inciting rage."

Unfortunately, some travelers choose alcohol before and during a flight, and in extreme cases, end up in conflicts with passengers and crew and attempt to open emergency exits and even storm the cockpit.

The bottom line is flight crews and passengers need to be more mindful. Flight attendants, like it or not, are the final line of defense when it comes to drunk passengers. They need to be empowered to cut off passengers when a fellow traveler brings up a legitimate complaint or if they see bad behaviors escalating. And in our post-9/11 travel world, passengers are much more willing to help flight crews with unruly passengers in case there isn't an air marshal aboard.

Those who choose to drink excessively and become abusive not only should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but they also need to be sued to recover the costs for any diversion or damages they may cause others during their inebriated state.

There are always travelers who will drink, whether it's free or not. By imposing fees and/or limits on the number of drinks, airlines would not only reduce alcohol consumption, but also make a profit from a common-sense regulation. Maintaining good order during flights is one of the best ways that airlines can serve their customers well.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Benét J. Wilson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT