Skip to main content

No one likes drunks on planes

By Benét J. Wilson
updated 12:03 AM EST, Sat January 25, 2014
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
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT