airplane cabin photo by Aaron Escobar
No matter how you cut it, airline travel isn’t easy these days. Exacerbating that, too many passengers, flight attendants, and airlines have left their responsibility at the cabin door.

Like many frequent fliers, I’m fed up.

On American Airlines flight 767 from Dallas to London, Hussam Jaber, became drunk and unruly, didn’t obey flight crew orders, and jabbed at several flight attendants. The flight was diverted to Boston’s Logan Airport where he was arrested.

What was he thinking?

A few years back, on Air Canada Flight 662, a one-and-a-half hour flight from Montreal to Halifax, a drunk passenger was still swearing when arrested in Halifax. In the air he wouldn’t follow crew instructions and he removed one of the plastic coverings on the inside of the plane’s window.

Do you believe that?

Last year, James Allen Cameron, 50, of Anaheim was on a United Airlines flight from Hong Kong to LAX. He had been drinking and became belligerent, and verbally abusive. He hit an off duty pilot during the flight, then later punched a flight attendant on the chin.

He will likely be sentenced to five years in prison or more this fall.

During the last decade I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of miles in the air, and I have witnessed more than my share of unruly, abusive, drunk passengers.

I believe that each of those passengers, like the ones listed above, had the personal responsibility to behave in a reasonable and safe manner. They have themselves to blame for their illegal behavior, and any legal trouble they earned.

That being said, it appears that in the examples above, and in similar instances I’ve personally encountered, had the flight attendants scrutinized their passengers’ condition even a little bit, and were more reasonably serious about their (crew) responsibilities, they might have prevented the problems on their flights. They could have simply stopped serving alcoholic beverages to those already drunk.

When will the airlines and their flight crews take their responsibility seriously when serving alcoholic beverages? Perhaps it will happen when someone is killed by a passenger in a drunken rage? Sooner of later, if flight attendants don’t change their job behavior, it’s going to happen.

The FAA holds passengers responsible for their actions inflight. When will the FAA hold the airlines and their crews similarly responsible?

Kathy Lord-Jones of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said, “Poor behavior should not be tolerated anywhere, but when it happens at 35,000 feet, the behavior jeopardizes the overall safety of that aircraft.”

She was referring to passengers, of course, and she’s right. Drunken passengers poor behavior shouldn’t be tolerated, but neither should the airlines behavior of serving passengers alcoholic beverages until they are drunk, and many times even after they are visibly drunk.

Most airlines today encourage their flight crews to file criminal and civil charges against passengers who abuse them. I think they should, but how about the FAA filing federal charges against flight crews who continue to serve obviously intoxicated passengers until they become abusive and endanger the safety of the aircraft?

To the best of my knowledge, it has never been done, because there is no FAA Dram Shop regulation which holds flight crews and the airlines responsible for their irresponsible serving of alcoholic beverages inflight. It’s about time for such regulation.

In Pennsylvania, we have a Dram Shop Law. Under it, a business or individual who gives alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person is legally responsible, along with the drunken person they served, for any damage that person might cause.

I have been on more than a few flights in recent years during which visibly intoxicated passengers were continued to be plied with drinks by the flight crew, even while these passengers began to act out. It wasn’t until they were essentially out of control, that the flight attendants cut them off.

Talk about way too late.

To me, while the passenger still bears personal responsibility for their actions, a flight crew who serves a passenger alcoholic beverages making them drunk or continues serving them while visibly intoxicated, deserves whatever abuse they get, and should be held equally accountable, both criminally and civilly for anything the passengers does while in that condition.

I’d be willing to bet if the FAA put a Dram Shop regulation into effect, drunken passengers would not be served inflight, and the incidents of drunken passengers’ criminal behavior, interfering with the operations of the flight crew and endangering the safety of the aircraft would virtually disappear.

If you agree, please write to me, your Senators and Representative and ask them to require the FAA hold flight crews responsible for their actions, for serving visibly intoxicated passengers alcoholic beverages, or better yet, pass a Federal Dram Shop law for commercial aviation.