Why won’t US Airways take responsibility for drunken passengers?

A few weeks ago we had the case of a nearly-sober passenger who was threatened with expulsion from an Allegiant Air flight. Today we must consider the opposite problem: several passengers who were not only allowed to fly while intoxicated, but encouraged to drink more.

It happened to Dianne Vernon and her brother on a recent US Airways redeye flight from San Francisco to Charlotte.

“We were about four rows from the back of the plane,” she remembers. “There were three very loud and drunk passengers sitting in the row one up from us, toward the front of the plane.”

The passengers were obviously inebriated, but they were not done imbibing. And the flight attendants seemed only too happy to serve them.

“I noted that other nearby passengers asked if there were other seats on the plane available because these people were so loud,” she says.”None were available, as it was a fully booked flight.”

The passengers carried on loudly while the rest of the passengers tried to sleep. They turned on their reading lights. They were basically unruly, and in Vernon’s opinion, the flight attendants didn’t make the situation any better by serving them more alcohol.

About an hour and a half before we landed I saw these people order still another drink from a steward and I heard that steward ask the head steward if he should fill their order.

I heard the steward in charge say go ahead, but this would be their last round; they had each had five drinks already.

So their orders of hard liquor were filled once more. After those drinks were consumed, they finally got quiet but then starting heading toward the lavatories.

But the ordeal didn’t end there. Each of the men were in the bathroom between 20 and 30 minutes. (What the heck were they doing in there?)

To add to the drama, the one woman, who could hardly stand up and her eyes truly looked fixed and dilated, went into the lav to see if her husband was OK and the head steward had to yell, “One person at a time in the lavatories, one person at a time…”

Vernon adds, “It was a fiasco, a nightmare.”

She contacted me after writing to a US Airways executive and hearing nothing back. I recommended that she send a brief, polite email through its website. Still nothing. So I gave her the names of some executives. That generated the following response:

I’m sorry to hear your flight was unpleasant due to the actions of some other passengers. I can understand your frustration with the situation. However, we cannot take responsibility for the actions of another passenger.

Unintentional things can and do happen during flights, and it’s unfortunate that your flight was not what you expected.

“Unintentional things”? I wouldn’t call serving a group of already-drunken passengers five more beverages each to be unintentional. But, hey, at least they responded.

That’s not enough for Vernon.

“I would like a total refund on the fares for that flight for my brother and myself,” she says. “We were flying on an emergency basis to get to an elderly aunt in Fort Myers, Florida. She was hanging on by a thread and we were certainly stressed enough without having to endure this.”

I’m not sure if I can procure a refund for Vernon and her brother, but I’m not entirely happy with the form letter US Airways sent.

Should I mediate Dianne Vernon's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • johnb78

    Sounds like US Airways should probably have cut off the party a couple of drinks sooner, but also that Ms Vernon is massively overreacting. The drinkers didn’t threaten, assault, menace or in any way endanger the aircraft or their fellow passengers. And her overall experience (“not as much sleep as she’d hoped because of noise”) was no worse than if she’d been near a baby or a snorer. Certainly not a compensation-worthy situation.

  • sirwired

    A full refund? Yes, the flight crew should have cut them off a bit earlier… but this is the sort of situation vouchers were made for; a full refund is asking a bit much.

    As Johnb78 has pointed out, you don’t get a refund for a snoring seatmate or screaming baby, and those keep you just as awake as some carousing passengers.

  • carillon246

    At least her flight wasn’t forced to land early because of bad behaviour. That last round pacified them. If I were on the flight, I would have cheered the last round. Refusing them might have led to a confrontation. As long as they didn’t leave the bathroom messy or peed or puked in the cabin, I say anaesthesize them!

  • y_p_w

    They want a full refund? That’s just a teensy bit over the top. Maybe a little airline funny money, but a full refund?

    I don’t agree with other comments that more alcohol would have necessarily pacified them. It could have made it worse. I haven’t been on the same situation on a plane, but I have been at a blackjack table where someone just kept on downing one beer after another and became loud and obnoxious.

    On the other hand, who still uses the term “steward”?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Full refund is over the top. They TOOK the flight. How about some airline funny money?

    And I’m only saying that since the FAs kept serving the drunks.

    I’ve been on one of THOSE flights, although it was to/from LAS. I know the types she’s talking about, but that’s why God had people invent noise cancelling headphones.

  • TonyA_says

    Did she or her brother complain to the cabin crew?
    I did not read that they did. Why not?

  • The FAs shouldn’t have served obviously drunk passengers. Maybe one of the lawyers who frequents this site can chime in, but I’d have to imagine that they could potentially subject themselves to dram shop laws if those passengers go on to kill or injure someone in a DWI. That being said, while it sounds like the passengers in question were being loud and obnoxious, it doesn’t appear they were being abusive to the crew or other passengers. If that is indeed the case, I hate to say it, but tough luck for Ms. Vernon. While having an obnoxious seatmate or neighbor is a major annoyance, I don’t see that as being grounds for a refund. Otherwise, I want a refund for every time I’ve been trapped next to a guy who won’t shut up or a crying baby!

  • Jeanne_in_NE


  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I was entirely sympathetic to Ms. Vernon, until I read that she wants a total refund.

    Still laughing about Raven’s comment. Really, who the heck can sleep 4 rows from the back of the plane in the first place without ear plugs or headphones?

  • Ian Parrish

    I’ve started to notice a trend sometimes in stories like this. I think when people ask for unreasonable things (like a full refund here), the airlines just tend to ignore them or send them a form letter. Clearly, Ms. Vernon is not entitled to a refund of her entire fare. She paid for the airline to transport her safely from San Francisco to Charlotte and it did. Sure drunk people are annoying, but it never rose to any level above that.

    Let me speculate a bit on the airline’s point of view. A sincere apology with a promise to remind the FA’s of their training regarding alcohol service would be a very appropriate response. However, when a passenger asks for a full refund, I think they just realize that no reasonable response will satisfy her. And I will reiterate that a full refund is not reasonable here. Maybe next time, you should suggest asking for reasonable compensation, e.g. miles, or an airline certificate for some amount off a future flight.

  • About halfway down the story I started the mental mantra, “I hope the OP doesn’t ask for a full refund… I hope the OP doesn’t ask for a full refund..” and sure enough, she didn’t fail to disappoint.

    If she saw something she didn’t like, she should’ve complained there and then which may have gotten the FAs to stop serving the alcohol and/or asked them to quiet down. But a full refund? I say a decent apology letter and $50 voucher should do it. If it takes you any longer than 5 minutes to type out the email to US Airways, skip it.

  • Robert Karpel

    Diane Vernon thinks that there were drunk people on a plane. Stop the presses! This is front page news! Seriously though, I think that Diane Vernon is anti-alcohol and the fact that people were legally drinking was upsetting to her. If she had an issue with them why didn’t she talk to the flight attendant? And what exactly did they do that was wrong other than use the bathroom for long periods of time? I would love to hear from another passenger from the plane, other than her brother.

  • $16635417

    I was with her until she asked for a full refund and played the “sick aunt” card.

  • Guest

    “And what exactly did they do that was wrong”

    Public intoxication I do believe is illegal in all 50 states.

  • TonyA_says

    However, on a flight, it is the crew who will determine that and most other things related to safety.

  • TonyA_says

    I thought raven was describing my sons’ dorm rooms sans the beer bongs :-)
    Can’t believe these kids can’t handle the scene.

  • BillCCC

    Nothing to mediate. She did not complain while on the flight, perhaps out of fear. Some of the details don’t add up. I don’t think that the flight was that bad. I see no examples of unruliness.

  • frostysnowman

    A full refund because some people were drunk? I think not. The OP is over-reacting big time. Years ago I used to travel to Myrtle Beach, via Charlotte (on US Air), for business. The population of those flights used to be me, maybe one or two other females, one or two families, and about 100 drunk businessmen and other guys who were going to play golf. These guys were served liquor during the flight even though many of them clearly started drinking prior to the flight. The main cabin was staffed with the burliest flight attendants you’ve ever seen, and to say those flights were difficult would be an understatement. I finally convinced my boss to let me fly first class on those trips to give me some relief from the chaos and “male attention”. No one really tried to stop the drinking, but I would never have thought to demand a refund. It’s sad that some things seem not to really change.

  • Matty B.

    “They turned on their reading lights.” I’m not sure I’d classify that as disruptive behavior…

  • Thomas Ralph

    I don’t think a refund is appropriate, but $100 in funny money would be fair.

  • mszabo

    I agree, however I am curious when the request for a refund was started. I still think a refund is unreasonable. However I’m not sure when the refund was asked for. It sounded to me that perhaps she wants a refund because the airline denied all responsibility with its form letter response. So the refund request may be an escalation from the original issue because they didn’t respond with an apology.

  • Chris Johnson

    Why didn’t she say something to the flight attendants? I would have. A full refund is over the top though. Maybe vouchers for free upgrades instead.

  • TonyA_says

    It sounds like they were hoping the airline would graciously offer them a refund, and when it did not happen, they demanded it.
    That is the same logic as not complaining with the FAs for something that bugs you because they were supposed to read your mind. Nuts.

  • mszabo

    Perhaps, although if I were this passenger I wouldn’t get really pissed of with the airline until after I telling them “you are overserving drunks” and they responded with “that isn’t our fault”. I still wouldn’t want a refund but I would definitely want ‘more’ and miles/vouchers wouldn’t cut it.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I think that the OP was under a lot of emotional stress and now she is picking fly poop out of pepper.
    I was with her until “They turned on their reading lights.” Where does it states that a passenger can’t turn on their reading lights after dark? Then I was totally against her when she asked for a full refund and played the dying aunt card. Instead of drunks, what if it was crying babies or snorers. How about a person who spent the entire flight trying to talk to you about joining Amway after you told them repeatedly that 1) you are not interested and 2) you have a ton of work to do?

    It wasn’t in the article but she should have spoken with the FA about the situation.
    I agree with the other comments that the FA should have NOT served these passengers. I am wondering if the union contract between the FAs and US Airways allow US Airways to give orders about drunken passengers,etc. to the FAs.

  • Stereoknob

    There is no way the OP should receive a refund. The arrived at her destination safe and sound. The staff should have probably limited the number or drinks served to this group, maybe even to 0, but the airline did its job.

    Not sure if anyone felt the same way but the mention of the group “turning on their reading lights.” It’s a flight, that’s what you can do. If this is an issue being an eye mask and also, earplugs. She seemed a bit overly sensitive to me.

  • SoBeSparky

    I can see her right now. Tight lipped. Grinding teeth. Moving her hips in the seat. Tapping her toes. Reminding me of the “church lady” on SNL. Agitated in a word. She “notes” another party complains. But she remains silent. Grinding her teeth. Counting every minute every passenger stays in the lavatory. There is a word for these “silent sufferers.” Busybody.

    Of course, a friendly discourse with the flight attendants might have solved this, approaching them in the galley,…starting with a casual, “Quite a group of passengers you have there…” moving on to “When do you cut people like that off?” and possibly, “Shame they had to fly on a red-eye when others want to sleep.” It does not take too much effort to attempt to empathize and bond with flight attendants. These red-eye’s are tough on them too. These “hints” to the attendants might have failed, also, but at least she would have done something positive rather than fret and worry about her aunt.

  • Stereoknob

    Great visuals. Love this response

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Sorry, but I’m having a tough time believing it was as bad as the OP claims. I was getting ready for her to say the drunks died of alcohol poisoning at the baggage claim. I’m not doubting they may have been annoying, but the OP sounds a bit like Carrie Nation.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That pretty much set the tone for me. Once she labeled them as being a problem, anything they did was going to make her list. No doubt their clothes were also too loud for her taste.

  • JenniferFinger

    An apology would be reasonable, but not a full refund.

  • Nancy Nally

    A full refund is over the top to ask for – I agree with the other commenters on that.

    I do think however that US Airways needs to be called to task and forced to acknowledge that their flight attendants contributed to an unsafe and miserable situation for the flight’s other passengers by serving alcohol to passengers who apparently arrived obviously over-served to begin with. How many stories do we hear about FA’s going overboard in policing their passengers because they get all wrapped up in “we’re responsible for safety and security”? This crew seems to have gone the other way and forgotten that completely. They didn’t know if someone in that group was going to become an ugly drunk at 30,000 feet. They didn’t know if they were giving someone alcohol poisoning (because they didn’t know how much they’d been served prior to boarding).

    The airline, also, by the way, probably created risk for people on the ground by continuing to serve the group. With that many drinks in them in that period of time, the last one served only 1.5 hours before landing, that party would have still been well over the legal limit to drive when they were leaving the airport. So unless they were getting a ride, US Airways facilitated drunk driving.

  • TonyA_says

    Let me take the other side of this argument. She said “I heard the steward in charge say go ahead, but this would be their last round; they had each had five drinks already.”

    So they must have ordered 6 drinks each (although we don’t know if any of the servings were doubles). If there were 3 of them, that’s a total of 18 drinks at 7 bucks a pop. That’s an extra onboard revenue of $126. Hmm.. what did the OP and her brother buy onboard? Perhaps, nothing.

    Okay so you have 3 loud passenger (approx. fares about $500 ea.) and added an extra $126 or more to US Airway’s revenue versus a brother and sister who did not. Why do I think there’s money to made selling booze. There’s extra income to be made selling anesthesia to passengers during a 5 hour boring flight on a squeezed seat.

  • TonyA_says

    Do these people need to take a case like this up to a consumer advocate? Seriously?

    I am old enough to have dead or dying close relatives. It has become a prime reason for my travel as I wish to see my close relatives alive and smiling before they can’t. Some of my trips are a lot, lot longer than the 5 hours it takes between SFO and CLT. Sometimes, the layovers are already 5 hours. If I had a sick aunt that I flew to visit, nothing on the flight would bother me. My only goal would be to get to my destination and see her alive. I would not be counting the number of drinks the people in front of me had drunk nor time how long they stayed inside the bathroom.

    I really wonder if the OP is “sicker” than her aunt.

  • Nigel Appleby

    I think there are 2 issues here. One is there the annoyance issue – well discussed and perhaps an appolgy and a $50.00 refund er person or a coupon for $100.00. The more important issue is the safety issue in the event of an in flight emergency, specially if the emergency leads to a slide evacuation after landing, BUT there is also the consideration that if they hadn’t ben served they might have got really obnoxious and aggressive. So it’s a tough call for the flight attendants.

  • dourdan

    my thoughts exactly, much like all the other cases- a airline/cruise/hotel is NOT a restaurant OP(s) cannot ask for a “full refund” of an entire experience because a few things were not perfect.

    and when OPs do – it makes them look greedy and entitled. am suprised so many people voted yes in the poll.

  • LonnieC

    Why not just have US Air give her some free drink vouchers for her next flight. (“If you can’t beat ’em, ….”)

  • Guest

    And again with the off subject reply. The question was what they did wrong. The flight crew crew opted not to do anything about it unlike the FA with the almost sober passenger Chris alludes to at the start of the story.

  • bodega3

    Sadly, they are suffering from the ‘what can I get out of this’ syndrome. It seems to be spreading rather quickly and using the consumer advocate doctor is a cheap way to get what they want, which is something for free! Too bad that the consumer advocate doctor gets taken in by these complainers instead of really helping those who need his services.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Actually, merely being drunk in public is usually not a crime. You have to have some disorderly conduct associated with the drunkenness. Sounds like these folks were merely partying and loud

  • Deborah Orth

    OP just a garden variety mooch who nwanted to travel for free and was looking for any thing to be able to do it. SORRY NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!

  • TonyA_says

    Hal, which 50 State regulations govern flying interstate between California and No. Carolina? None.

    Only FEDERAL Rules apply.

    For the benefit of those who do not care to research FAA rules or Federal Law, I would like to summarize it for you.

    The rules prohibit the flight crew to carry a drunk person.

    14 CFR FARS Sec: 91.17(b)
    Except in an emergency, no pilot of a civil aircraft may allow a person who appears to be intoxicated or who demonstrates by manner or physical indications that the individual is under the influence of drugs (except a medical patient under proper care) to be carried in that aircraft.

    But there is no indication the three passengers were already drunk at boarding.
    Also, the FAs made their determination to serve them their last drink.

    So then what rules do apply INSIDE the cabin? I can find no U.S. rules specifically prohibiting the sale of liquor to passengers that appear drunk on a flight. However, the crew obviously shall remain in control. Therefore, passengers can drink alcohol provided they keep their BEHAVIOR IN CHECK. Otherwise these rules and laws will get them booted out or arrested:

    FAA Federal Aviation Regulations (FARS, 14 CFR)
    § 121.580
    No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part.

    14 CFR 135.120 – Prohibition on interference with crewmembers.
    § 135.120
    Prohibition on interference with crewmembers.
    No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part.

    49 USC 46318 – Sec. 46318. Interference with cabin or flight crew
    (a) General Rule. – An individual who physically assaults or threatens to physically assault a member of the flight crew or cabin crew of a civil aircraft or any other individual on the aircraft, or takes any action that poses an imminent threat to the safety of the aircraft or other individuals on the aircraft is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $25,000. (b) Compromise and Setoff. – (1) Compromise. – The Secretary may compromise the amount of a civil penalty imposed under this section. (2) Setoff. – The United States Government may deduct the amount of a civil penalty imposed or compromised under this section from amounts the Government owes the person liable for the penalty.

    So there you go Hal. Your comment “Public intoxication I do believe is illegal in all 50 states” DOES NOT APPLY INSIDE AN INTERSTATE FLIGHT. The 3 passengers did not do anything wrong.

  • Guest

    Guess it varies from state to state. My son-in-law would tell you about being arrested for just standing outside with a friend who was waiting with him for a cab. This was in Kentucky so probably just a power trip for the cop.

  • $16635417

    I flew after my father died suddenly over 20 years ago. On the flight home, we had a landing gear issue and were about to make a gear up landing (belly landing). People were crying and screaming as the flight attendants went about their emergency procedures and getting us in brace positions. I just sat quietly and got in brace position as requested. The woman next to me actually yelled at me for not being emotional and as distraught as everyone else was! I honestly did not care about what was about to happen and shrugged it off. (Luckily, the gear came down just before final and we landed without incident.)

    So yes, in my case, facing a plane crash under similar circumstances didn’t even phase me.

    I have an aunt in hospice care right now and know I will probably be traveling in the next few months. I don’t see how a few drunks would bother me any more than if I were traveling for business or pleasure. In my opinion, the sick aunt card adds nothing to the story other than an attempt at creating a sense of entitlement.

  • TonyA_says

    Mike I am sorry to hear about your loss (even if it was over 20 years ago). Losing a loved one is always hard. I agree with your comment about almost feeling nothing when someone close to you is gravely sick or just died and you have to catch the next flight. I’ll be glad and thankful to the airline for taking me there. I do not understand where people like the OP are coming from. No telling what generation they are from.

  • $16635417

    Well…USAirways has an “S” and and “A” in it….what word starts with an “S” and an “A”??? Hmmmm?

  • $16635417

    …or an eyeshade for when others turn on their pesky reading light.

  • TonyA_says

    and earplugs …

  • I’m curious whether the FAs are compensated by sales in the cabin. Therefore they’d be incentivized to keep selling the passengers drinks.

  • Wow, I’m surprised that everyone thinks she’s over-reacting. Since the behaviour of these drunken boors could have been mitigated by the flight crew, including asking the Captain to intervene, I think USAir is at fault here. USAir did not make an effort to quiet things down, indeed they served alcohol to already-inebriated people. I’m not sure that’s even legal. It makes no difference why she was flying, bad behaviour should not be toleratedon an airplane. Loud drunks are not exactly in the same picture as a screaming baby are they? I would have been livid.

    It occurs to me that all the liberals who feel that “everyone is equal” and should be treated equally are now experiencing the downside of that mind-set … a small number of people are allowed to bully a large number of people … and nobody in charge takes any action except sell them another drink.

  • mauikimo

    While I don’t agree that Vernon should get a full refund, she is at least owed a sincere apology and assured that the situation will be investigated and the flight crew trained to respond better. Have we forgotten that airlines do owe their customers a certain minimal level of comfort and safety? Inebriated passengers can be a danger to crew and others – the fact that nothing serious happened on this flight does not mitigate that fact. It’s like saying that a bomb aboard a plane was no big deal because it didn’t explode. The job of the flight crew is to control situations so they don’t become problematic or unsafe, not exploit profit potential. (What, you don’t think flight crews are under orders to maximize liquor sales?)

    Also, something most of those commenting apparently don’t understand is that different people react differently to situations. Some can sit quietly while a plane is crash landing and some need to scream. Why is it that you think that everyone should react the way you would react?

    I think Christopher should mediate not for compensation but for a simple apology and assurance that safety and comfort will be of higher concern than pushing liquor sales. If you let US Airways get away with it this time what happens next time if a passenger is injured? And what if that injured passenger is YOU? How about we try thinking beyond this specific incident and look at the big picture?

  • bodega3

    Bad behavior is seen everywhere and having to put a slant on this with the use of the word liberal is ridiculous.

  • $16635417

    Please re-read my posts. I actually said I was with her until she wanted a full refund and added that she was traveling to visit a sick aunt. I think an apology is appropriate but apparently would not satisfy the OP here.

    I don’t know why visiting a sick aunt makes a difference. Should the business traveler working on a presentation not be a “special case”? Should the family going to see Mickey deserve lesser treatment than others? (Raven will probably vote yes…but I digress!) Why someone visiting a sick aunt? Did she tell the Flight Attendants or “Steward” that she has special needs because of the purpose of her trip?

    As far as my experience in an almost crash landing, that was in reply to TonyA commenting on my post and then I shared that I have reacted similarly. I even qualified it by saying “in my case”. Yes, the prospect of a crash landing did not phase me…but please tell me where I said EVERYONE should react this way? Did I lash out at the woman who lashed out at me asking “How can you be so f—in’ calm?!?!” No, I didn’t…that’s just the way I reacted at that time, I never chastised her for her behavior at the time and after it was over, never chastised her for yelling at me either. And you know what? If that would happen today…I’d probably react differently.

    If she would be satisfied with Chris obtaining an apology, that would be fine. Playing sympathy cards for compensation is a sure way to lose my support. If Chris wants to report the flight date and pertinent info to USAirways, so they can use it to train that “Steward” on serving drunks that would be fine as well….but a full refund? Please Chris, utilize your resources elsewhere.

  • orca42

    Seems like there are always complaints with US Airways about one thing or another. I thought there was a general airline policy about not serving alcohol to obviously impaired passengers; how come US Airways can’t manage to honor this? Why are some idiot drunks more important than other passengers? The response from the executive was pathetic, and does not take ownership for the poor choices made by the flight crew in continuing to serve liquor to drunks. Perhaps the adjacent passengers should all stand up and challenge this! This whole situation should not have happened.

  • y_p_w

    The problem is that occasionally there is an aftermath beyond simple yelling and obnoxious behavior. Sometimes it results in those drunk passengers vomiting all over the cabin. I’m almost sure that many of those dorm room parties end up needing a cleanup on aisle 6.

    I sometimes take a commuter train system that still allows passengers to openly consume alcohol. I’ve seen groups of people with 12-packs of beer, and some employees have told me stories of passengers literally knocking back shots. Occasionally drunk passengers use the lavatories to vomit, but sometimes it’s in the vestibules.

  • y_p_w

    How about this?


    Dude drank all of his duty free liquor (I think this can be sent to the cabin but it’s usually given near the end of the flight) and eventually the rest of the passengers got tired of it and gagged him and tied him down with duct tape.

  • James Penrose

    “They turned on their reading lights.”
    Well, say no more, take them out and shoot them.

    “But the ordeal didn’t end there. Each of the men were in the bathroom between 20 and 30 minutes.”
    My God, will the horror never end? Do these people always time how long other people spend in the toilet? A rather peculiar hobby I’d say.

    Down to reality. What is the law and what is the airline’s policy about serving drinks to obviously drunk passengers? If the attendant had enough doubts to ask a senior, that’s enough cause to presume they were noticeably drunk and should not be served.

    They probably should file a complaint with the FAA about the situation as drunk passengers are a serious danger to others in an emergency.

    Full refund? I don’t think so, but the airline ought to offer them some consideration since it looks likely their own policies about serving drinks.

  • NoraG

    I believe that US Airways may want to think about the ramifications of what those passengers do once they land. If they drive away and get into an accident, I feel confident that a lawyer is going to get involved. US Airways should think about a little training for the flight attendants.

    That said, I don’t think Ms. Vernon deserves a full refund. They got her to where she needed to be, and apparently on time, since she didn’t mention otherwise. But it would also be a good thing for US Airways to send her an apology and an acknowledgement that the airline will review their policies.

  • TonyA_says

    True. But are we now going to have the TSA check our blood alcohol levels? A slippery slope, huh?

  • TonyA_says

    It is true that people react differently to different situations. But please understand that everyone is expected to SPEAK UP and tell flight attendants (politely) what is bugging them. Maybe the FAs could have apologized for her inconvenience on the spot and give in to her requests.

    If the OP and her brother never complained to the FAs during the flight, then how can the airline fix the problem? Should every small issue be brought up to a corporate level, or blogged by a consumer advocate?
    Maybe the OP did not speak to the FAs because she realized how petty her complaints were (i.e. lights turned on, loud talking, long bathroom usage).
    And finally there is the question of “What Can You do About it”? Is there a way that the airline can improve its alcohol service policy? What are they supposed to train FAs more on about alcohol? Frankly I believe the opposite (i.e. like in Saudi Arabia) is a lot worse.

  • She had me right up to demanding a full refund (they got to where they needed to go, where did the airline mess that up?) and following that with, “We were flying on an emergency basis to get to an elderly aunt in Fort Myers, Florida. She was hanging on by a thread and we were certainly stressed enough without having to endure this.”

    We’ve all traveled at one time or another under duress. Heck, my husband could be the poster child for flying under duress, but at no time did we ask for a full refund. Sometimes, stuff happens. It’s not life shattering or caused the plane to crash, did it?

    I think were the airline to offer them a token amount of miles for having to deal with the drunken louts on their flight (an inconvenience, to be sure, but not much else) would be sufficient.

  • TonyA_says

    He tried to “choke the woman next to him” and was “screaming the plane was going to crash,”

  • Good post, James. You made me laugh!

  • Mike, I’m so sorry you went through this, particularly at a time when you needed it least.

    I guess, Mike, some people need the screaming and yelling in a vain attempt to keep the plane safe.

  • Isn’t it good to know greed never goes out of style?

  • Tony, I had an issue last year with Delta and seats for the disabled. When I approached them with the problem, and how I was negatively impacted as a result, Delta made their initial offer, which was rather skimpy given the level of apathy I, a disabled person, faced.

    However, when I responded to the person at Delta after their initial offer, I honestly told her, “I don’t know what’s a good resolution to this, not having anything exact in mind, but what I DO know is, this ain’t it.”

    The responded with a much better resolution and all was well. I didn’t need my entire trip refunded, I didn’t scream and cry about it, I was calm, rational and understanding. Yes, I WAS angry over it, but I worked to not reflect that in my initial e-mail (which I CC’d Chris on, he could tell you better than I if I went over the top). I DID mention my disability because that was germane to the situation.

  • wiseword

    I was absolutely sympathetic with her complaint until the sob story began. Serving drinks to drunken passengers is a problem. Her dying aunt is not.

  • TonyA_says

    Nancy I remember your case. You did speak to an FA and they failed under Part 382 to treat you better. I understand Delta and you settled your differences. This shows that the system works.
    The problem with the OP’s case is that no rule seemed to have been broken except the unwritten rule of writing a great apology letter greased with a flight voucher.
    In the early part of the article, I was entertaining the idea that she was some sort of Consumer Activist against Unregulated Alcohol Sales in Airline Flights until she asked for a full refund.

  • I’m suprised that they still carried on serving them if they are being so disruptive. It’s OK for a short flight, but if it is a long haul, it is a nightmare as there is no escape.

  • Some sort of compensation? Yes. Full refunds? No. It doesn’t rise to this level, in any way, shape or form.

    I felt I was treated fairly, given Delta did get me to my destination in one piece, albeit not in handicapped seating (which is now part of the Economy Comfort seating, which is a premium seat). And that was the rub, I think. The EC seating was so new, I don’t think anyone on the plane was quite sure just how to handle it. Since that time, I’ve had no problems with being placed in handicapped seating. Seems Delta did what it said it was going to do and the rules regarding it are firmly in place, now. To me, that’s FAR more important than any money.

  • TonyA_says

    Nancy, we all know that airlines give away $50-100 vouchers or a few thousand miles like candy. It’s really more money for them because they know the passenger has to buy another ticket to use the voucher. Something went wrong with this one. It is like “good riddance” and don’t bother flying with us again. I want to know how she approached the airline.

  • Del

    Bwhahahahahaa! This made me spit Dr Pepper on my keyboard when I read it. ) LOL!

  • TonyA_says

    In-flight duty free sales (or from catalog) – yes.
    I have read online that Ryanair has sales targets for food and drink sales.
    You ask a good question.

  • Mel65

    Oh. Lord. Prolly not politically correct, but all I can picture is a 60-something maiden spinster (is that word still used?) who lives w/ her brother and disapproves of anything smacking of “immoral or degenerate behavior” and has prolly never allowed demon alcohol to touch her lips. Methinks Ms. Vernon has pinned her bun a little too tightly. Personally, I find it amusing at times to be sober and watch what drunk people think passes for fun, knowing they’ll feel like trash the next day. She could have passed her time in a far more entertaining way had she chosen to be amused rather than agitated. Wanting the people around us to behave the way we think they should is a great way to waste your life being irritated.

  • $16635417

    I think referring to someone as a “spinster” is as politically correct as calling someone a “steward”.

  • How did “liberals” become part of this conversation?

  • Cam

    Sounds like looking for an excuse to ask for a refund to me.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Everybody is their own special case…that’s how it goes. Somebody on the plane was traveling for the first time in 10 years. They should get even more compensation since this was a decade’s worth of flying ruined for them!

    And just my $0.02, but I even think wanting an apology after-the-fact in a case like this is too much to ask. Had she spoken up at the time and been rebuffed, or there was some evidence that things were way out of hand (maybe other passengers chiming in to agree, an incident at the airport upon arrival, etc.) then an apology is due. But when you say absolutely nothing while things are happening and only decide later on that something different should have been done, then it’s simply too late. The airline has no way to corroborate her story…the apology wouldn’t be sincere even if they gave one because nobody knows what precisely happened.

  • TonyA_says

    LOL. Bodega she could be your next door neighbor. I googled her name and tons of links pointed to Healdsburg. What’s up with you liberal folks from CA? Can’t stop laughing from liberal NYC Area :-)

  • Dutchess

    There’s nothing here to mediate. Last time I checked it wasn’t against FAA rules to be loud on a red-eye. Yes they were rude, yes they were inconsiderate, what do you expect the airlines to pony up because you lost a couple hours of sleep? Put your big girl pants on and move on. Sorry your aunt is sick but the entire world doesn’t come to a stop and bend over for you because you’re having a bad day.

    The airline got you safely to your destination be happy for that. Some people are such cry babies.

  • bodega3

    Hey we aren’t called the Left Coast for no reason! Interesting as Judy lives in the bay area, too, so she must be very uncomfortable with us native CA liberals since she isn’t from our parts either!

  • Robert Karpel

    ^ +1 (TonyA’s post)

    And we don’t even know if they were really drunk. There is just one woman’s statement that the group was drunk and she is saying this because she wants $$$ (reimbursed for her ticket). I would love to hear from others on the flight but I doubt we do because nobody thought it was a big deal… except for this woman who is trying to get hundreds of dollars from the airline.

  • I like interesting things that we are discussing. thank you

  • cjr001

    I find the responses to this story compared to the other one recently, where the passenger was accused by posters of being drunk for being happy they were going to Vegas, to be rather hypocritical.

    No, the passenger should not get a refund, but drunk is drunk, and it seems to me that these people had far more than the OP in the other story, yet this OP should just suck it up? Not to mention, the airline gets to say that they’re not responsible when they directly contributed to the situation? That’s garbage.

    In the end, I side with both OP’s in general. If there’s one think I like less than being drunk myself, it’s dealing with other being people drunk.

    I had drunks sitting near me at a hockey game recently, and the ushers only gave them several talking to’s, while some moron on the concourse kept serving them. Dealing with one on a plane would become a zero tolerance situation for me; air travel is frustrating enough.

  • Crissy

    While I think the response from US Airways was poor, I don’t think having to endure drunken passengers on a commercial flight should be compensated with a free flight.

  • Joe

    FAA regulations state that flight attendants may not serve alcohol to passengers who are under 21 or already intoxicated. By continuing to serve alcohol to people who are drunk, the flight attendants were being grossly negligent. It should be pretty easy for the FAA to pull up the flight manifest to see who was doing the dirty deed. So there’s a paper trail. All somebody needs to do now is make the phone call. So why not use this violation as leverage for a refund? In fact, I’d report it to the FAA even if they do get the refund.

  • pauletteb

    Ms. Vernon got safely from point A to point B, so her request for a refund is ridiculous, although so is the FAs continually serving alcohol to already-inebriated persons. Did the FAs say ask the party crowd to quiet down? Being drunk, if no one said anything to them directly, maybe they didn’t know how loud they were. Regardless, this is what earplugs are for.

  • Joe

    The airline’s cost of providing a full refund will be a drop in the bucket compared to the fine they’ll receive from the FAA.

  • Joe

    She would have been complaining to accessories of an FAA violation. Who in their right mind would complain to the person committing the very wrongful act that she’d be complaining about? I’m sensing that people on this board are not understanding the gravity of this type of safety violation.

  • Joe

    From CFR Part 121 (the section dealing with scheduled carrier flights (airlines):

    Sec. 121.575 — Alcoholic beverages.

    (a) No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless
    the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage
    to him.

    (b) No certificate holder may serve any alcoholic beverage to any person aboard any of its aircraft who—

    (1) Appears to be intoxicated;

    (2) Is escorting a person or being escorted in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.221; or

    (3) Has a deadly or dangerous weapon accessible to him while aboard
    the aircraft in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.219, 1544.221, or 1544.223.

    (c) No certificate holder may allow any person to board any of its aircraft if that person appears to be intoxicated.

    (d) Each certificate holder shall, within five days after the
    incident, report to the Administrator the refusal of any person to
    comply with paragraph (a) of this section, or of any disturbance caused
    by a person who appears to be intoxicated aboard any of its aircraft.

  • TonyA_says

    Do you know the gravity of this type of safety violation? Why not tell us?

  • TonyA_says

    Please READ what you are posting.
    (a) No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless
    the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage
    to him.


    (c) No certificate holder may allow any person to board any of its aircraft if that person appears to be intoxicated.
    There was no indication the trio was drunk prior to boarding the aircraft. Is there?

  • Steven Reed Sr.

    I dont think she deserves a full refund, but to say the drunk passengers didnt pose a safety hazard is not accurate either, if there had been an inflight emergency they very well could have been a safety problem, luckily they were not.
    I would like to know what the US Airways employees are told about drunk passengers, what does thier polocies about serving alcohol to passengers, if the violated their own policy then the OP is entitled to a partial credit, in my humble opinion.

  • Joe

    Flight attendants are the last line of defense when it comes to passenger safety. They are also responsible for complying with safety regulations, which includes not serving alcohol to passengers who appear intoxicated. Thankfully, these drunks ended up hanging out in the bathroom. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to consider some alternate scenarios that could have unfolded had one of these drunks in question turned violent, not to mention the potential medical issues that could have arisen. Once airborne, the options for resolving a physical altercation or a medical condition are extremely limited. By contributing to the problem by serving alcohol to intoxicated passengers, the flight attendants exhibited a lapse of judgement which placed the passengers on board that aircraft in great potential danger. Assuming the situation happened as described, the flight attendants would have been carried away in handcuffs, not to mention disciplinary action, if the situation had been reported to police.

  • TonyA_says

    Ok so you want the FAs arrested? Based on what law? Based on what complaint? And who tell the cops to be ready to arrest the FAs as soon as the plane lands? Do you even have an iota of evidence the FAs did anything wrong? Have you heard their version of the facts?

  • “Do you even have an iota of evidence the FAs did anything wrong? Have you heard their version of the facts?”

    Joe engaged in some lawyerspeak, but he did say the magic words, “Assuming the situation happened as described” That just means that his analysis is assuming the truth of the assertions.

    As far as whether serving alcohol to an intoxicated person is a crime, I don’t know. I personally doubt if it under the circumstances, unless FAs are specifically trained to determine whether someone was inebriated or not. And even then, I would expect that the punishment would be a simple fine. Imprisonment seems highly unlikely.

  • TonyA_says

    49 USC is not 18 USC. :-)
    Most 14 CFR violations only have fines.Civil Penalties.

  • johnb78

    I’m sure US Airways follow the same (FAA-decreed) rules as the rest of the industry, and have similar educational programs. Remember, we only have Ms Vernon’s word that these people were intoxicated to the point where they might have been a hazard in an emergency, rather than being – like the Vegas lady we discussed here the other week – a bit tipsy and also high on life at the start of their vacation.

    Ms Vernon’s starting point, understandably given the purpose of her trip, was a miserable one. Miserable people are disinclined to forgive happy people’s boisterousness; happy people are disinclined to respect miserable people’s solitude. Drinker or teetotaler, we’ve all been in both situations. And most non-business travellers are travelling either for reasons that are specifically happy or specifically sad.

    The cabin crew have to keep the peace between these tribes in a tiny metal tube, whilst also dealing with the people who are lairy/drunk/malicious enough to cause danger rather than annoyance. It’s not an enviable job. So this is just the flip-side of the Vegas story. Neither woman deserves any compo; in both cases, the cabin crew made a reasonable call that they could have made differently.

  • johnb78

    Everyone serving alcohol is legally obliged not to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, and receives training accordingly; flight crew are no exception.

    But there’s ‘intoxicated’ like a drunk in a 1940s movie, and then there’s ‘intoxicated’ like, erm, a girl who’s off to Vegas with her husband and excited about the event (to refer back to previous Elliott scenarios).

    Which is where Joe’s point falls down: the group in question were clearly annoying to at least one passenger, but that doesn’t fall within the legal definition of ‘intoxicated’.

    (side note: in Queensland, the law refers to “excessively intoxicated”, which is a fantastic vindication of stereotypes about Australia. “Crikey, mate, we wouldn’t throw a cobber out of a pub just for being normal-intoxicated”)

  • johnb78

    I’m no puritan about drinking in public (from either side of the fence), but there is a very strong correlation between “modes of transport in which booze should be allowed” and “modes of transport in which toilets are provided”, for obvious reasons.

  • johnb78

    “If they drive away and get into an accident, I feel confident that a lawyer is going to get involved.”

    Jeez. I know the legal system is a bit crazy, but it’s not *that* crazy. You can still go to a bar, drink enough beers to be over the limit for driving but not over the limit to be considered drunk & disorderly/drunk & incapable (offence varies by state), and then drive home without the bar being responsible unless it offered you valet parking or otherwise contributed directly to your decision to drive.

    Plenty of people get cabs home from airports. I always do after long-hauls, because no damn way I’m safe to drive until I’ve had a bit of sleep.

  • johnb78

    “If there’s one think I like less than being drunk myself” – is the whole thing, innit? The puritans who hate all drinking would prefer it if nobody ever drank.

  • johnb78

    None of the US legacy airlines compensate FAs by F&B sales. Given the difference in cultures, it would be an insane rod for their own backs.

  • TonyA_says

    John, I do not believe that airline from across the pond “compensates” their FAs for food and drink either. They have pure sales targets (akin to quota?) based on what I read. IMO that means you don’t keep your job if you do not meet your targets. Now that is really insane.

  • johnb78

    Sorry yes, you’re absolutely right.

  • TonyA_says

    Johnb78, the rules as written today places the crew as both “enforcers” and “bar tenders”. Therefore “appears intoxicated” is purely left to their judgement (and not the OP’s).
    Also, interestingly, the rules were really written mostly to PREVENT the FLIGHT CREW from drinking and flying (not centered on passengers).

  • johnb78

    Absolutely agree. And I know – some amusing stories from 1920s-1950s aviation on occasions before that happened.

  • cjr001

    If only that’s what I said… except it wasn’t.

  • Cybrsk8r

    A full refund , no. But it would be kind of nice to see the Airline take some responsibility for continuing to serve already drunken passengers, instead of saying, essentially, “not our problem”.

  • Robert Karpel

    To be fair, Sec. 121.575(b)(1) states that no certificate holder (flight attendant) may serve any alcoholic beverage to a person that “appears to be intoxicated”. This is the key phrase – what does intoxicated mean for a passenger on an airline? Obviously the flight attendant did not think that they appeared intoxicated and apparently only this one woman on the flight thinks that they were intoxicated. And she wants $$$ from the airline.

  • Freehiker

    Full refunds? Give me a break.

    How about a voucher for a free drink on their next flight =)

  • Really amazing….nice share.. i love it. thanks so much.

  • SierraRose 49

    FYI: In 2007 US Airways sued the state of New Mexico because the state pulled the
    airline’s liquor license. The state chose to do this after a passenger, Dana
    Papsi, was served too much alcohol on a flight and caused a car crash that
    killed five people, plus himself. This means US Airways cannot serve any alcohol
    on flights that are over New Mexico or grounded in the state. The airline lost
    the federal suit, meaning New Mexico had to remain alcohol-free.

    Kelly O’Donnel, New Mexico’s License Department superintendent stated, “It is
    a victory, a huge victory, for public safety here in New Mexico and for other
    states that want to ensure their liquor laws are upheld by everybody who is
    selling liquor within their borders.”

    US Airways argued that the state has no authority to tell the airline how to
    regulate alcohol, since it is a federal issue. Now that the federal courts have
    agreed with the state, the airline has nowhere else to go.

    Although the passenger involved should have had better personal
    responsibility, the 21st Amendment provides the right to distribute and sell
    alcohol, and that comes with responsibility in serving. During the
    investigation, other passengers stated it was obvious the man who caused the
    five deaths was intoxicated and the airline still served him two additional

  • TonyA_says

    Apparently you did not read that upon appeal, the Federal Appeals court reversed the New Mexico ban on US Airways.


    The lower court obviously erred in their decision.

    More news here http://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/12/cheers-us-airways-can-once-again-serve-alcohol-in-new-mexico/

  • I was with her until “They turned on their reading lights.” Where does it states that a passenger can’t turn on their reading lights after dark?

  • radiogal

    I am just curious – What is the limit for alcoholic drinks on most airlines?
    and a comment…
    I flew coach until I met my husband. In his words “his a** doesn’t fit in those coach seats anymore”. So, we are in the first class. Fine by me. I noticed that most people in first class would settle in with that first drink offered before we took off. But not much drinking after that. I recall there was much more drinking in the coach section and many more drunk people.
    Why would that be?

  • I can’t even begin to imagine how much work you did on this article.

  • Y8

    I recommend it to everyone..

  • Y8

    Your article is considered the most unique articles I’ve read shortly. I have learned something today relevant for this subject which i never considered before.

  • And what exactly did they do that was wrong”

    Public intoxication I do believe is illegal in all 50 states.

  • EdB

    The question that would have to be answered is, were they really intoxicated?

  • rwm

    Gee, I don’t know. To kill the pain of being in coach, perhaps?

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