With the dramatic rise of in-flight incidents – many involving alcohol – one traveler thinks it might be time to try something novel and implement a Flying Under the Influence (FUI) program that’s modeled after the DUI – or Driving Under the Influence. You know, what? It’s not the worst idea.
Recently, a commenter on this blog shared an interesting idea. We won’t mention their name, publicly, but the screenshot below shows their comment. They stated, “Maybe its time to initiate the FUI Flying under the influence. People drinking have impaired judgement and since we have dui for cars lets have it for flying. Better yet remove alcohol sales from airports and have breathalyzer with heafty fines (sic).“
The comment was in response to a post we shared that shows an inebriated female passenger getting arrested after spouting racist statements and behaving poorly in the gate area. The passenger, like many (many!) other passengers involved in a travel fracas, had consumed too much booze.
Last year the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that there were nearly 6,000 travel-related incidents, many of which were reported to involve alcohol. The issue of booze and travel has been so severe that many airlines stopped serving it during the worst times of the pandemic. For example, only recently Southwest Airlines shared its plan to start serving alcohol again and it was met with quite the outcry from frazzled flight attendants.
Clearly, alcohol is playing a role in the recent spate of in-flight or airport-related incidents – that’s undeniable. But, should airlines stop serving alcohol altogether? Should passengers be required to be sober to travel? These are interesting questions.
At face value, we kind of like parts of the idea. As someone who doesn’t booze much anyway, let alone drink much (if at all) while traveling, the impact to me is, admittedly, low. I’ve always been perplexed by the full bars at 9AM in airports, and the people who slam back a couple of beers on a short flight.
It’s one thing to have a glass of wine with your dinner while riding business class to Germany on 9-hour flight. It’s a different thing to be pounding screwdrivers on the hop from SLC to LAX. But, hey, to each their own, I guess. It was never really that big of a deal to me. Just odd.
I’ve personally witnessed an absolutely slammed traveler try to get in their car and drive home. Don’t worry, I intervened and told the parking guy to not let him through, and call the cops. They did. Presumably, he got a DUI. The man had been on my short PHX to SAN flight with me and was sitting a few rows away…he had 5 beers, and I am fairly certain he pregamed in the airport.
The idea of requiring sober travel is an interesting one, for sure. While we haven’t thought through all of the implications here are a few to get the conversation going.
- Would we ban all alcohol? Or just drunk travel? Probably, the latter.
- What kind of a revenue impact would this have on airline and airport bottom lines?
- How would we enforce this? Would we expect the already frazzled and tired flight attendants to now become the FUI checkpoints of the sky? That probably doesn’t work.
- Do you contact local airport police to have them breathalyze passengers before they board (or at least the ones that seem drunk?)
- What kinds of laws would have to be changed? And do any already cover this sort of thing?
These are just some of the questions that would have to be tackled to implement such a program. A more likely scenario would be to simply have flight crew, and gate agents simply refer a passenger to police at the gate area or after landing – discretely pulling them aside for a test. Moreover, if a passenger was arrested or detained for another infraction and was found to be three sheets to the wind, the fines would stack up more.
In the end, we have more questions than answers, but the fact we are even discussing it is a clue. There is something deeply wrong with air travel these days and booze has a meaningful role in it.
I’ve been saying this on BoardingArea blogs for at least a year. People blame masks for issues on planes but it’s not just masks causing it. People are dealing with loss, depression, and stress. They ramped up self-medication during covid lockdowns and many became alcoholics. It’s what people do when faced with loneliness, crumbling morals, hyped-up threats of death, you name it. To make matters worse, many of the restaurants had been closed in airports but the bars seemed to be up and running full speed in many airport terminals. Then you mix in the “reward” of being able to take your mask off as long as you are drinking whiles waiting on the plane to show up. What could go wrong? As a risk manager, I’ve worked with large events where attendees are allowed to take test drives in cars or operate large machinery that is on display. The one thing that was always present is you had to take a breathalyzer test to drive. It would take a few seconds and you had the results. I really think we have reached that point of needing to do that. It is so bad that if I got drunk and was charged with some disturbance on an airplane I would file a liquor liability claim against the bar or airline that overserved me. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of that from the airlines but I guess they are too busy pushing mask mandates to pay attention. Heck the old reality tv show from Southwest a few years ago had this happen on almost every episode and that was in normal times.
This is a silly idea. Is it illegal to be driven drunk? So why flying? And who chooses to give a breathalyzer? The already power tripped FA because you looked at them wrong?
And what’s drunk? One cocktail in the centurion lounge?
And can we illegally confiscate their bank accounts, too, like Herr Trudeau does to truckers in Canada?
I DO occasionally drink alcoholic beverages at the airport when flying, IF i am not driving anywhere at the end of my flight. Why don’t I ever see these incidents when I fly? ….only seeing them a few times in the news or on travel blogs, etc. Is it really that much out of hand, or is it just being reported on when it never used to be? Social media has changed the game for anything happening in public. Jmo but I think the whole covid lockdown & resulting (mostly) unfriendly / unhelpful airport & airline personnel contribute to the escalation in a major way.