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 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT