Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

Kirby: Follow a few rules when flying drunk

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Feb 11 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Feb 11 2014 03:39 pm

First, my bona fides. I have traveled by commercial airline while intoxicated. Twice. The first time was entirely my fault. I was young, fresh out of basic training and not an accomplished drinker.

The second time was not my fault or even my idea. I was still young and a poor drinker but the police at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport woke me up and made me get on the plane anyway.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

To my knowledge, the only inconvenience I caused occurred in the latter case, when a flight attendant was forced to thumb open one of my eyelids to tell me we were in Salt Lake City.

There. Now you know. It was important to mention that because while I no longer drink, I’m about to tackle the controversial issue of alcohol on airplanes.

Last week, a flight to Salt Lake City from Baltimore was diverted to Minneapolis/St. Paul (not in Canada but close) because a drunk woman reportedly grabbed at other passengers and sexually propositioned them.

When the woman became confrontational with members of the flight crew, a couple of them clapped her in irons and held her down. She became even more hostile then, screaming that she was going to kill them.

The plane landed safely. The cops came on board and took the woman away. You can see some of it in this video.

The video does not contain the part where (I strongly suspect) the passengers — fed up and enormously inconvenienced by an idiot — voted on whether to overpower the attendants and throw the woman from the aircraft somewhere over Indiana.

This is not the first time a drunken passenger has caused problems on a flight. In fact, it appears to be happening far more often.

Perhaps most notable was the 1995 incident in which a United Airlines passenger (Gerard Finneran, Connecticut) was arrested for pooping on the beverage cart after flight attendants refused to serve him more wine. Finneran, who insisted he wasn’t aiming for the cart, was convicted, sentenced to two years probation, and fined $5,000. Meanwhile, fellow passengers were psychologically scarred for life.

story continues below
story continues below

We come now to the alcohol part of the question. I think airlines should continue serving alcohol on board flights. Lots of people have anxiety about flying. A glass of wine or a cocktail smoothes out the bumps for them.

I’d rather sit next to a woman with acrophobia AND a couple of drinks in her than one who is completely sober and fully amped. I know because I’ve done both.

I have no problem with people having a few drinks on a plane. I do have a problem with people who are already drunk getting on planes. Completely sober people with cellphones are rude enough.

While flights attendants and gate agents are trained to watch for drunks, occasionally they slip through. A metal tube traveling 600 mph is no place to be with a guy who finds the most ridiculous things hilarious or enraging.

Maybe it’s time to consider pre-flight Breathalyzer tests. If someone who’s obviously had a few drinks tries to board an aircraft, I say we test them. Anyone who blows a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 or higher gets bumped or has to travel in the baggage hold.

A higher BAC than is permitted to operate a motor vehicle is fair. After all, they aren’t going to be flying the plane. If they try that, then we can throw them out a window.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.