Don't drink and fly.
Words to live by, not just if you're a pilot, but also if you're a passenger.
Sandra Langer explains why: On a recent trip from
Amsterdam to New York, she watched a good number of her fellow passengers get hammered. Red-faced men blocked the
aisles, puked in the bathroom and groped the
females - along with a laughing crew," says Langer, a writer who lives in New York.
That's right, some crewmembers were also inebriated. The trip made a lasting impression on Langer. Never again will I
take a connecting flight through Amsterdam," she says.
Stories like hers make you wonder if it's time to limit, or even stop, serving alcohol on flights.
Some airlines do. Bahrain's parliament earlier this year voted to ban alcohol on Gulf Air flights. Other carriers have
policies that limit the amount of alcohol that can be served to passengers.
Not that current laws are what you would call permissive. Federal law restricts alcoholic beverages from being served
on a plane without proper certification. It forbids alcohol from being given to someone who appears to be
intoxicated, or is escorting a prisoner or is carrying a
deadly or dangerous weapon."
When I proposed an alcohol ban on flights more than a decade ago, the response from readers was a resounding no." But
a lot has changed since then. We've had a series of drunken-passenger incidents, each one of which leaves you
questioning why passengers are allowed to drink on a plane
at all. (I asked the Federal
Aviation Administration if any changes were planned to
current alcohol-related rules. None are.)
I've changed, too. Eleven years ago, I would have thought nothing of ordering a glass of wine on a flight. The ban
idea? That just made for an interesting story in 1998. But today, as the father of three who doesn't drink much
anymore, I can see the wisdom of abstaining for a few hours on the plane - if not longer.
Here are a few reasons
for keeping the cocktails grounded:
1. Alcohol heightens a
Unless you haven't flown in a few years, you probably know that air travel is getting more stressful. Alcohol can make
it worse, say experts. Drinking on planes has unique hazards, particularly as flying becomes more stressful," says
Karen Sternheimer, a sociologist who teaches at the University of Southern California. If there is a long delay on the
tarmac, the irritation can be magnified by alcohol." At a bare minimum, passengers need to be sober enough to
understand and cooperate with crew instructions. Under increasingly stressful conditions, too much alcohol can make a
simple annoyance into a serious problem," she adds.
2. Drinks on a plane aren't just intoxicating - they're toxic.
Higher altitudes do amplify the effect of alcohol, which, as you can imagine, can cause problems for passengers that
imbibe too much," says Ashley Halsey, a spokeswoman for American Behavioral, a health-care organization that
specializes in drug and alcohol abuse and treatment for employers. Because alcohol impairs judgment, the likelihood of
violent or other anti-social behavior is increased. When people fly, they also get dehydrated, and alcoholics tend to
drink alcohol instead of water, which tends to increase their adverse reaction."
3. It's annoying.
Just listen to Terry Ward's account of her last flight from Orlando to Newark. I sat next to a group of guys who were
on their way to Montreal for a boys' weekend," she remembers. They started drinking right after we took off and didn't
stop. Hard liquor the whole flight. I thought the flight attendants would stop serving them, but they didn't, because
one of the guys was tipping them $20 each round."
4. You could relapse.
If you're off the booze, a plane trip is a relapse waiting to happen, say experts. I'm still constantly surprised by
how many of my patients will relapse or overdrink on planes," says Carrie Wilkens, the co-founder and clinical director
of the Center for Motivation & Change, a private group practice in New York that specializes in treating addiction
and compulsive behaviors.
5. How are you getting home?
Even if you survive your flight without incident, there remains the issue of getting back home. If you're planning to
drive, you might keep the case of Dana Papst in mind. A few years ago, after disembarking from a US Airways flight on
which he was served alcohol, he crashed his car, killing himself and five others. The FAA later cleared the airline of
Why not wait until you're home to crack open a bottle? It could make your next flight a better one - if not save your