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Friday, July 19, 2013

Should airlines serve alcohol?

I went to George Street to enjoy a night out with my friends and being a responsible person, I left my car at home. After our evening was over I decided to take a taxi home. I walked up to the stand and opened the back door of a parked taxi and asked if he was available. I didn’t realize that there was already a male passenger sitting in the back seat. The driver asked, “Where are you going?” Thinking he was going to call another taxi I told him, “The east end.” The man in the back spoke up and said, “That’s where I am going. Hop in and we’ll share a cab.” It was then I noticed that the passenger was drunk. His speech was slurred and he could barely keep his balance as he patted the empty back seat next to him. “No thanks” I said and closed the door.
I would never get in the car with an impaired driver. I also would never share a taxi with an impaired stranger. That’s just common sense.
Alcohol can make a normally passive person aggressive, a quiet person loud and give an asshole an excuse to do something he wouldn’t have the nerve to do if he was sober.
Not getting into the taxi with a drunken passenger was my choice. Now let’s change the situation.
I am in Halifax boarding a flight home to St. John’s. I go to my assigned seat next to the window. As the plane ascends into the clouds I put my headphones on and start watching a movie. The man sitting next to me orders Vodka on the rocks. He is coming home from Fort McMurray. I know this because he tells everyone around us who will listen. He tries several times to start a conversation with me. I take one headphone off and answer him with a single word (Yes or no) then go back to my movie. He is on his second Vodka but from the way he is acting I can tell he had a lot more than that in the airport bar and probably on the other flight from Alberta. He is so loud I can’t hear the movie.
The flight attendant smiles as she passes him a third Vodka and takes his credit card. I look at her annoyed. There is no mistaking the pissed off look on my face when she hands him back the credit card. I think about asking her not to serve him anymore alcohol but I know this will make him even more aggressive. I know I can’t move because they already announced the flight is over-sold. He refused to take the hint that I don’t want to talk to him. I finally say, “I am watching a movie. Leave me alone.” Then he starts in with the “Oh you’re too good to talk to me are you? Some people think they’re too good to talk to a common worker. I work 60 hours a week in Fort Mac….” He continues on about how he contributes to the economy of Alberta.  It turns into the flight from hell for me as I now have to put up with this drunken idiot beside me.
I didn’t ask to sit next to a drunk on this flight. I assumed when I booked my ticket that Air Canada would also keep my safety in mind. During the flight I had to pretend to watch the movie to avoid talking to him. I was hyper aware that if he started getting aggressive I would be the first in his line of fire. I had to watch his drunk, exaggerated hand movements out of the corner of my eye because it seemed like he was going to grab my knee. I thought to myself, what if I had my daughter with me? How would I protect her from this drunken man? I couldn’t even protect myself and the flight attendant didn’t seem to care.
This week the media ran two stories about planes having to make unscheduled stops because of intoxicated passengers.  So my question is; why is alcohol allowed to be served on an airplane?
Intoxicated passengers are more than just annoying. They also pose a risk to their own safety and the safety of others. What would happen if our plane had to be evacuated due to an emergency? We were seated in the middle of the plane. It would take two men to lift him off the aircraft if he was passed out or maybe four police officers to subdue him if he started to freak out. Either way, I would be pinned to my window seat left to fend for myself. I would be trapped with no way to exit the plane. So if there were a fire, I would die due to Air Canada serving alcohol to this intoxicated man.
By serving this man alcohol Air Canada was putting my life and safety as risk. Not to mention how he was allowed to annoy not only me but everyone around us. He continuously used profanity totally oblivious to the lady and two children seated across from us and at one point announced to the whole plane how he “Had to take a piss!” He staggered through the plane to the bathroom and returned about fifteen minutes later telling everyone how he “Pissed like a race horse!” Needless to say no one used the bathroom after him.
I cannot order a beer on a city bus, or ask for a cocktail in a taxi, so why is it I can order alcohol on an aircraft. Air travel is a vital part of life. We have no choice but to use if whether for work or pleasure.
Years ago airlines glamorized the “Inflight cocktail and cigarette” when they marketed air travel to consumers. Years later they banned cigarettes because they were a health hazard to travelers who did not smoke. That was the right thing to do.
I think the time has come to ban alcohol to protect the safety and security of passengers.
If a plane had two or more intoxicated people on board how could they evacuate passengers according to their industry standards? How can a flight attendant subdue an unruly, intoxicated person in a confined space like the seat on a plane or the small walk way. How can they ensure the safety of the passengers seated next to them?
When I buy a ticket on an aircraft for me or my family, we have a right to a safe environment. It is a reasonable expectation that and my children will not have to sit next to a drunken man screaming profanities or passing out in the chair next to us, impeding when and how we can leave our seats.
It’s time for airlines to do the right thing and stop selling alcohol onboard aircrafts.
When I pay hundreds of dollars for an airline ticket, I expect that I will not be seated next to someone who will harass me for hours in a setting that I can’t get out of. I also expect a full can of Coke, but that’s a blog for another day.