10:09 PM

Anyone Else Besides
Me See A Pattern Here?

People who know me personally are aware that I gave up drinking in 1996 to clear my head in pursuit of my private pilot's license. Not that I really had a problem with booze, but I just didn't think I could drink AND fly with the same brain. In September of that year, I earned that ticket, one of my life's greatest accomplishments.

But in today's society, not drinking can almost be as taboo as drinking too much. I can't tell you how nervous some drinkers act around me when they see I choose not to join them. It's as if I am passing judgement, which I am not. It is simply a health choice, nothing more.

I have zero problem with others consuming alcohol, within limits. If you drink so much say at a University of Oregon home football game that you scream obscenity-filled tirades at a family wearing the opposing team's colors, chances are you have a drinking problem, dude. And if you drive a car while drunk, you should have your license taken away for life and be forced to take the bus for all eternity.

That all said, a cocktail or two in a social environment, or a glass of Pinot in front of a roaring fire or with a wonderful meal is certainly acceptable in my world. But if you're Joe Six Pack and need six tall boy Budweisers to mow the damned lawn, face reality, you are an alcoholic. Best to just admit it and start attending the meetings.

I bring all this up because of the rash of air rage news found across the Internets this week. Seems they all have one thing in common:

"An airline crew used duct tape to keep a passenger in her seat because they say she became unruly, fighting flight attendants and grabbing other passengers, forcing the flight to land in North Carolina. The woman allegedly struck a flight attendant on the buttocks with the back of her hand during Saturday's flight and also stood and fell onto the head of a blind passenger and later started pulling the person's hair. Ankle cuffs kept slipping off the woman, so the flight crew and two passengers were forced to use duct tape to keep her in her seat.It was reported that other passengers saw the woman having drinks in an airport bar before boarding, and she bought another drink on the plane."
Weird, but certainly not an anomaly:
"A passenger on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Charlotte recently started drinking rum and cokes and quickly became disruptive. After flight attendants refused to top him up for a fourth time, the drunk passenger allegedly took his cup of ice and started throwing cubes around the cabin. He then got up, started swearing and tussled with a flight attendant until someone describes as "very large in size" subdued him."
But this isn't just a problem on this side of the pond either, says this site:
"Data from the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority showed that air rage incidents among British passengers have tripled over the past five years. Pilots blamed the rise on plane delays which led bored and angry passengers to take up drinking as a way to pass the time, leading to inflight fights. From January to March, the CAA recorded 601 air rage incidents, up by 32 percent from 458 cases logged for the first quarter of 2007. For the same period in 2003, only 214 such incidents were on record."
The toxic mix of alcohol and poor airline service is dangerous ground, and as any reader of this blog knows, some trips via the scheduled carriers these days would drive Mother Teresa to down straight shots of tequila. And now as the A380 and other mammoth airliners feature lavish first-class lounges, it seems the airlines are just ASKING for unruly, drunk passengers.

The solution is quite simple, I believe. Until the lines can get back to providing the kind of stellar service that passengers on a Pan Am Clipper back in the late 30's enjoyed, maybe they ought to think about cutting off the pissed off passengers and stop serving booze altogether. Of course I'm not pushing that idea, but as long as we allow frustrated flyers to get jacked up before and after boarding, the industry will just have to live with drunken clowns in flight.

Guess that's why the airlines are now carrying duct tape.

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