Aviation

Stopping ‘Mile High’ drunks

Kate Webster

A pilot on an America Airlines flight has taken protective action against a passenger who was throwing a drunken tantrum, pinning him to the floor in the confrontation on 21 July.

Shocking video a passenger recorded on their phone, shows the American Airlines pilot leaping at 25-year-old Michael Kerr and yelling “You don’t put your hands on my flight attendant,” after Kerr allegedly shoved the female attendant.

According to an FBI affidavit, Kerr refused to return to his seat as the plane taxied to the gate. When an attendant asked him to sit, he threatened to break her jaw before he walked to the front of the plane, swearing at flight crew, and kicked one attendant in the leg and shoved another to the floor.

This incident was the most recent in a number of drunk and disorderly altercations on planes in the past year.

Drunk airline passengers have made several headlines; just last month also saw a Jetstar flight from Sydney to Phuket diverted to Bali after a fight between six passengers broke out. It was reported that several of the ejected group were drunk.

Flying for some people is difficult enough without drunk passengers making it worse. While a drink on a flight may not be a problem for some people, others may not know when to stop. They also may not know the rules and penalties that can result from bad behaviour while under the influence.

Being drunk on an aircraft is a violation of Federal Aviation Administration rules. The same FAA Code of Federal Regulations that restricts intoxicated crew members also prohibits passengers traveling under the influence. The FAA’s General Operating and Flight Rules section 91:17 says that ” … 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.”

Many people don’t realise the decreased pressure from altitude may exacerbate symptoms of intoxication. Cabins are pressurized to simulate conditions at about 6,000 feet, and a reduction of oxygen to the body, especially the brain, can produce dizziness and other symptoms of intoxication. Lower oxygen levels, and possible dehydration from dry air and the diuretic effects of alcohol, may mean a person feels or appears more drunk in a plane after consuming the same amount of alcohol as they would on the ground.

So what can be done to avoid such behaviour in flight?

Drunk passengers on flights can pose a real safety risk, and they can create an unpleasant or even intimidating environment for other passengers and air crew.

Passengers causing trouble under the influence of alcohol or other substances may have to pay for it; literally. If the plane has to land, the drunken passenger may be sued by the airline for costs accrued by the delay.

But is this enough?

Maybe new restrictions on the sale of alcohol at airports are to be considered to clampdown on drink-fuelled air rage incidents?

Breathalysers at the check in gates?

Whatever the answer is, it needs to be actioned swiftly to avoid any more in-flight disturbances before something goes seriously wrong.

Have you ever been on a flight where passenger/s were drunk and disorderly?

kristen-wiig-plane

 

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