Monday 16 July 2018

Louise Kelly: Don't take away my drinks just because some passengers can't behave themselves

Why place the blame on anyone but the passengers themselves? (stock image)
Why place the blame on anyone but the passengers themselves? (stock image)
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

I like to have a drink when I fly.

I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not a nervous flier, I don't get rowdy and shout 'Who are ya?' over five rows of passengers after three glasses of wine.

More often than not, jumping on a plane signals the beginning of a holiday and I believe that the decision to have several drinks - as I am capable of not starting fights/having sex with strangers after consuming alcohol - is mine and mine alone.

So the recent call for additional restrictions to the sale of alcohol in UK airports before flying grates just a little.

Should it not be that the repercussions for disorderly drunken behaviour are that little bit more severe so the average tipsy tipple enjoyer doesn't bear the brunt of their actions?

Monday night's 'Panorama' revealed that the number of passengers arrested for drunken behaviour across UK airports increased by 50pc in 2016.

With the additional draw on police resources with a major airport on their patch, and the safety of airline crew and passengers, to consider, I do agree that steps need to be taken to tackle the increase in this unruly behaviour.

But should the average well behaved travellers among us - who have learned to manage our alcohol intake - have to suffer as a result?

Let's be fair, it is a learned trait - so should the age limit for drinking alcohol on flights, therefore, be raised? How about the introduction of high fines that may be a more effective deterrent than a scolding? 

Listening to the testimony of numerous airline crew interviewed for the Panorama investigation who reported being sexual harassed and abused by drunken passengers made for unsettling television.

While destinations such as Alicante, Ibiza and Palma were cited among "the worst routes" on the program, it was an even shorter trip from Belfast to the UK where I personally experienced the most rowdiest behaviour I've seen on a flight.

An argument between two men - who were obviously intoxicated - began, apparently over a woman who was sitting beside one of the afore mentioned men. It came to a few choice words and one thrown object before flight crew separated the trio and they subsequently fell asleep.

Not the most ideal way for the staff to start their early morning Friday but I happily downed a few rums on my connecting flight, safe in the knowledge that I would not feel the need to "take the f***ing head off" anyone in particular.

Ryanair's call for airports to ban the sale of alcohol before 10am and to limit the number of drinks per boarding pass to a maximum of two can seem like an obvious solution, at least for short haul flights.

But what was also glaringly apparent in the BBC show was a sense of shunting responsibility and calling for blame on anyone but the passengers as if we are all mindless animals incapable of behaving responsibly.

There was much pointing the finger at the advice given by airport staff around the purchase of alcohol in duty free.

While one sales assistant stated that she could not consume the alcohol on the plane, she gave her an unsealed back which incredibly left the journalist aghast. "What is stopping me from drinking this alcohol?," she asks. Um, I don't know, the sense you were given?

Why is it not enough that World Duty Free displays "clear advisory notices at till points, on till receipts and on carrier bags that remind customers that alcohol purchases cannot be opened until their final destination is reached"? Does the average right-minded person need a steel padlocked box to stop themselves stripping naked and dancing in the aisles?

Another sales assistant was held accountable after the Panorama undercover journalist asked, in a relatively nudge-nudge wink-wink manner to be honest, if she could drink the items on the plane.  "Officially probably not, unofficially I think you'll get away with it," he said.

Airport Operator's Association chief executive Karen Dee told the journalist that this response was unacceptable and that the employee in question was either not trained correctly or made an error in judgement. My assessment? The lad is only human and was having a flirt with a good looking girl.

As Ms Dee said herself: "The sale of alcohol is not the problem. It's the misuse of it and drinking to excess and then behaving badly".

Surely we can come up with a solution to the growing disorderly trend so the holiday fun is sucked out of all our flights.

Online Editors

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