Don’t fly high: 7 reasons to lose the booze

Don’t drink and fly.

Words to live by, not just if you’re a pilot, but 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, 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 though 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 stressful experience.
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. There’s nowhere to run.
Anywhere else, you can walk away from an unruly drunk. But not on a plane. “It’s a metal tube and blasting off at hundreds of miles per hour,” says Jeffrey Lord, a veteran frequent flier based in Burlington, Vt. (Lord believes alcohol isn’t the only problem on a plane. “How about spending hours strapped in with these stressed-out companions with nothing other than caffeinated beverages being served?” he asks. Good point.)

3. Drinks on a plane aren’t just intoxicating — they’re toxic.
“Higher altitudes do amplify the affect 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 healthcare 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.”

4. 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.” Instead of cutting off the passengers, she made all of their drinks doubles, as they requested. “It was completely obnoxious,” she adds.

5. It’s embarrassing, too.
Who doesn’t have a story to tell about having one too many on a plane? Here’s Denise Vardakas’. She and her mother were flying from San Diego to Grand Cayman, and on their final leg they enjoyed “endless Jack and Diet Cokes.” She adds, “We were having a great time chatting with the crew members, and a few of our fellow passengers.” On their way back a week later, the same crewmembers greeted them as the “Jack and Diet” ladies. Oh, my.

6. 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.

“It’s gotten to the point where I’ve heard it as a therapist so regularly that now, when any one of my clients is planning a trip, I tell them, ‘OK, we have to make up a plan for how you’re going to manage this flight.’” Her patients inevitably agree that they drink more in the air, and take precautions to avoid it.

7. 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 any wrongdoing.

I don’t consider myself a modern-day prohibitionist, but I think these practical reasons for keeping the skies alcohol-free make sense.

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 life.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend