I did not pay to hear drunks on the plane!

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By Christopher Elliott

On her recent American Airlines flight, Patricia Simon was forced to endure the antics of a crowd of drunks on the plane. Now she wants a refund.

I know what American Airlines will say if I bring Simon’s case to it.


I don’t care. I still think she deserves something for what happened during her flight from Dallas to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Maybe you agree.

Rowdy drunks on the plane

“Basically, a flight attendant served guys from a football team double bottles of Jack Daniels on the flight to Cabo,” she says.

The players were probably underage, and their behavior quickly turned raucous.

“They drank all the bottles of Jack Daniels that they had in the cart and then moved on to vodka and Bailey’s. And they were sitting directly behind us. They had mini-bottles lined up on their tray tables,” she reports.

Should airlines serve in-flight alcohol?

I’ll get to the rest of her story in a minute. But first, let me tell you why I’m telling you her story. It’s not to get her compensation — I know what American will say — it’s the issue of alcohol on planes and the wrongness of it all. No one wants to suffer the foolish behavior of drunks on planes.

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But back to Simon’s unfortunate tale. Here’s what happened after the drinks started flowing:

As the flight went on, they became louder and drunker. They were yelling that they wanted to do body shots.

And kept yelling, “F***!”

Towards the end of the flight, one of the guys pulled out a harmonica and was trying to play, which was so annoying.

So, we were held captive in a closed airplane with five drunk passengers because the flight attendant over-served the passengers. And, we had to hear this loud, foul-mouthed language for the duration of the plane ride.

We were also afraid that a fight was going to break out because they kept getting up and yelling, “Let’s do body shots,” and “F*** this,” and “F*** that!”

Simon wants a full refund. (Here’s how to get a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket.)

American’s response to Simon’s complaint

Here’s American’s response:

We appreciate your writing to tell us about the problems you encountered when you traveled with us on March 12. Please accept my apology and also my thanks for giving us the opportunity to respond.

First, we do not want to infringe upon the rights of anyone, and we try to ensure you are not subjected to uncomfortable situations by other customers. For that reason, our flight attendants are instructed not to serve alcoholic beverages to any customer who appears to be intoxicated.

In light of your experience, we have forwarded your comments to our Flight Service managers for internal review with the flight attendants on your trip, and I am confident we will handle future occurrences more effectively.

Still, while I know that you have requested compensation for this incident, we don’t typically extend compensation in these matters. However, our position does not lessen our concern for your disappointment. We have renewed our focus on customer service and our managers at reservation centers, airports and flight service bases are taking steps to ensure that employees are responsible and accountable for the kind of service they provide our customers.

Mrs. Simon, we hope that we have the privilege of welcoming you aboard again soon.

Simon doesn’t like that answer.

I did not pay to hear drunks on the plane!

“That is not an acceptable response,” she says. “I paid good money for my wife and I to have a pleasurable flight. American’s flight attendants over-served passengers, and due to their actions, they were belligerent, loud and swearing. I did not pay to hear drunks on the plane.” (Related: A downgrade from business class to economy on SATA Air, but no refund.)

American’s reply is absolutely correct and yet, paradoxically, incorrect. On the one hand, it transported her and her wife to Cabo safely, in accordance with its contract of carriage. On the other hand, one of its flight attendants served all-you-can-drink hard liquor to the football team sitting next to her. (Related: Never yell “Whoohoo! Vegas!” before you board an Allegiant flight.)

That’s not the American way

I think the airline owes her something for the trouble. Maybe not a refund, but a sincere apology, a voucher, maybe some frequent flier miles — anything, really, that would say “I’m sorry.” I recommended that Simon use our American Airlines company contacts and request reconsideration of her complaint.

Maybe it’s time to quit serving alcohol — before someone gets hurt.

Should airlines ban alcohol on planes?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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