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Will more booze make the skies too friendly?

Airlines and airports see a chance to make money by increasing liquor sales. Will we get stuck in the air with rowdy drunks?

By Teresa Mears Nov 30, 2010 2:30PM

We've written a lot about how airlines and airports are giving us less and less, while charging more fees.

 

Here's something they're giving us more of (besides scrutiny): alcohol, or at least opportunities to buy it.

That's right: Airlines and airports are making more alcoholic drinks available, USA Today reports.

 

They are not doing this to make us more mellow about missed connections and added fees. Consider the increased availability of alcohol another fee, albeit one that is paid on a voluntary basis. 

 

USA Today explains:

The ability to enjoy a libation while flying is a long-standing perk. But the increased access and options reflect efforts by some airports to boost revenue, as well as a growing marketing savvy by airlines, which now sell everything from meals to day passes to their premium lounges, travel experts say.

Airlines have been increasing the availability of liquor in the last year, consultant Jay Sorensen told USA Today. "What's happening is airlines are becoming better retailers of products. They're doing things to highlight the fact that, 'Yes, indeed, we do sell alcohol on the airplane.' They're trying to mimic what occurs on the ground in terms of consumer promotions," he told the newspaper.

 

Among the added opportunities to drink:

  • Airports in Chicago, and Portland, Ore., are making alcoholic drinks available for longer hours -- 24 hours a day in Chicago.
  • American Airlines is offering drinks for $5 during "happy hour" in December on flights that take off between 5 and 6 p.m.
  • United just introduced a "signature cocktail." The Sunrise Sunset is made with cranberry-apple juice, orange juice, lime and vodka. The airline also offered free wine this summer to passengers in the "economy plus" section.
  • Airports are opening more upscale drinking spots.

The downside, of course, is that if more alcohol is available, passengers are more likely to get drunk, not something any of us want to be forced to endure. Give me a crying baby over rowdy drunks any day.

 

"It's too early to know what the effect will be, but making liquor more available to passengers certainly has the potential to create problems for airline workers, both in the terminals and on the aircraft," Frank Larkin, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, told USA Today.

 

Christopher Elliott, who blogs at Elliott.org and writes a syndicated travel column, has long advocated a ban on alcohol on planes. Last year he wrote:

When I proposed an alcohol ban on flights more than a decade ago the response from readers was a resounding "no." But a lot has changed since then. We've had a series of drunken-passenger incidents, each one of which leaves you questioning why passengers are allowed to drink on a plane at all.

He offers "7 reasons to lose the booze," including that alcohol can heighten what is already a stressful experience. And then there is the fact that there is nowhere to run if the people around you are drunk and disorderly.

 

It looks as if he's fighting a losing battle. We do hope that flight crews will abstain rather than pull a Slater.

 

What do you think? Do you see problems ahead from the increased availability of liquor at airports and on planes? Or do you think problems caused by drinking are rare and that selling more drinks is an easy way for the airlines to make more money?

 

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1Comment
Nov 30, 2010 3:29PM
avatar

Unfortunately alcohol and altitude is not a very good combination. Altitude makes you get drunk much quicker, because your metabolism slows with low pressure and your brain slows down over a lack of oxygen. That's why children fall asleep on a plane even though conditions for sleep are far from ideal.

Many people fell into this trap already. They consume their normal amount of liquor and suddenly get so dunk they cannot contain themselves. Considering that one drunken outburst in a local bar will cost you a few hours of community service and clean record upon completion of your probation, the same kind of outburst on an airplane will cost you a criminal record and 10 years in federal prison.

My advice: don't drink and fly. If you coose to have a drink, drink about half of what you would normally drink on the ground.

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