A rowdy crowd of mile-high imbibers fired a barrage of angry messages in response to my column last week suggesting that airlines lose the liquor service.
They called me everything from a modern-day prohibitionist to a Nazi. Sober passengers, meanwhile, remained relatively quiet – and voted.
Of some 7,363 respondents to our Internet poll, 40 percent supported an outright ban on alcohol. One-third thought carriers should limit in-flight liquor service, while only 27 percent wanted to keep the cocktails coming.
I got some supportive e-mails, like this one from Dawson Springs, Ky.-based traveler Martha Thomas: “The statistics back the fact that people and liquor don’t always go well together,” she writes. “Keep the friendly skies friendly-no liquor please.”
Indeed, the pro-alcohol contingent was decidedly unfriendly.
“Ban, ban, ban,” complains Eric Crossley, a network analyst from Concord, Calif. (and one of the more well-mannered e-mailers, by the way). “Where is the logic in punishing 75 percent of flight takers because 25 percent are irresponsible? Alcohol doesn’t cause the problems; irresponsibility does.”
“Gimme a break!” says Robert Proctor of Hartford, Conn. “Banning alcohol on flights is another example of treating the symptom and ignoring the cause, which here is a breakdown in social order and personal respect. It penalizes the many travelers who want only to pass the miles in a relaxed and convivial setting.”
“Ban stupidity,” chimes in another angry reader.
Yet another suggests: “Simply ban Christopher Elliott from all flights.”
Fine by me. Like most readers of this column, I’d give anything to never set foot on a plane again. I hate to fly. But that’s about as likely to happen as a total alcohol ban on flights, so I’ll just dream on.
Some folks reacted to the horrific examples of in-flight hooliganism in last week’s column: an inebriated passenger brandishing a 3-inch blade; a trashed traveler trying to toss a flight attendant out of an emergency exit; and the guy who mistook a food cart for a toilet.
On a flight from Japan, Kevin Vance Carter of Vancouver, Wash., sat next to a professional heavyweight boxer who had fought the previous evening and “needed some wine” for his headache. Lots of wine, actually.
“Over the nine-hour flight, the attendants gave him 12 bottles of wine. In the sixth hour of the flight, he became profane, ranting about police authority in his hometown,” Carter reports. “He was on the verge of physical violence. The flight attendants evaporated, leaving me to deal with the problem they created.”
Atlanta Web developer Wendy Darling also felt uncomfortable on a recent trip from London, when crew members kept offering her seatmate refills on wine.
“He drank not one, not two, not three, but seven-possibly even eight-glasses of wine,” she remembers. “After he had accepted his third drink, I expected that the flight attendants would stop offering it to him. In this case, there were no problems, but I could easily imagine someone with a different disposition being greatly affected by that amount of alcohol and causing a disturbance.”
Other readers reminded me that ridding the cabin of booze wouldn’t work because most passengers already board the plane intoxicated, having loaded up at the airport bar.
“Banning alcohol on flights will not help anything unless you also ban alcohol in airports,” writes Jeff Burnside of Alexandria, Va. “People oftentimes are drunk when they get on the plane.”
Brian Bunn, a systems analyst from Tucson, Ariz., agrees. “I would say these rowdy travelers did the majority of drinking in the airport terminal waiting for their flights. If you ask me, banning in-flight drinking is not the solution, but making airlines stick to their posted flight schedules is. This would minimize the time a frustrated traveler would have to potentially get into trouble.”
I can’t blame anyone for drinking in the airport, much less on a plane. As Ernst Borchert IV, an engineer from Rock Hill, S.C., points out, flying is rarely a pleasant experience these days. “I feel like a schoolkid on the bus when I fly,” he says.
No kidding: The food’s awful, the service stinks, the seats are squished together. If you’re a nervous flier, you’d probably feel better after a couple of drinks.
All good points. But, despite the persuasive e-mails, I stand by my original recommendation. Drinking and flying don’t go together. Making the cabin dry is a small sacrifice that has the potential for big rewards-fewer disruptions and altercations and, of course, healthier passengers.