No tolerance for violent drunks on planes

“I think [the airports] could do more. I think the retailers could do more as well.”

So says Phil Ward, managing director of Jet Blue, on the growing problem of violence and other disruption caused by drunks on planes.

At least Jet Blue has done something about the problem, by banning the sale of alcohol on its early morning flights. But, of course, thanks to bars and retail outlets at airports that operate 24-7, the offenders can already be in an ugly state before they get on board.

As a drinker myself, I’m not convinced that banning alcohol on flights is the answer. Many — dare I say most? — people can handle alcohol without getting angry, and they have a right to buy a drink where it is legal.

Cutting off the flow to people who get aggressive is certainly an option that has to be in the armory of airlines — but once a plane is in the air it can be too late, and the refusal of service can make an angry drunk even angrier.

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So there really ought to be coordination at all levels to make sure that there are fewer nasty people on planes.

My suggestions:

+ Staff at airport bars and lounges, along with security and airline officials, ought to be trained to identify potential troublemakers and be encouraged to report them while they are still on the ground.

+ Airlines, airports and other authorities should share information about extreme or frequent offenders. If a passenger has been banned by one operator, then they should come under extra scrutiny by others.

+ Passengers should be encouraged to report any bad behaviour they see, and all complaints should be treated seriously.

+ Governments should work together to ensure that the punishment for loutish behaviour (drunken or not) on planes is severe and uniform. There should be no slaps on the wrist.

Yes, this has to be handled carefully, but when you’re 30,000 feet in the air and the safety or hundreds of people is at stake, nobody has the right to be obnoxious.

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