Mumbai: Managing boorish behaviour from inebriated and highly intoxicated passengers have flight attendants from across the aviation fraternity posing a pertinent question. They would like to see an official rule that would support them in refusing alcohol to passengers, since most of these drunken events happen on account of the absence of such a rule that lays down an upper limit on serving alcohol in-flight.
Examples of this boorish behaviour abound. In a report, the Economic Times tabulated the experiences of the flight attendants of Lufthansa flight LH 756 from Frankfurt to Mumbai, which had a passenger who, after having a bit too much of alcohol, refused to sit quietly in his seat, and caused inconvenience to a female passenger next to him. When the flight landed, he had to be wheeled out of the aircraft, and even in the terminal, needed the help of airport security to be lifted off the floor and helped to the washroom.
An earlier report in the Times of India spoke of a Qatar Airways' Doha-Bangkok flight which made an emergency landing at Mumbai airport a couple of months to jettison a passenger who got violent after consuming alcohol on board, and hit a flight attendant. The crew had to physically restrain him from further violence till he was offloaded at Mumbai.
Though such scenes are rare, it is a piquant situation that most flight attendants would have to deal with at some point in their careers. Domestic airlines and some politicians have in the past lobbied for the commencement of service of alcohol aboard domestic flights. Air India plans to service liquor at the terminal at international airports in case of delays.
For now, airlines continue to rely on the discretion of flight attendants on whether or not to serve alcohol to tipsy passengers. Air India cabin crew prefer to use their discretion to serve the third drink onwards.
The Economic Times report quotes Aviation Industry Employees' Guild general secretary George Abraham as acknowledging this as a global problem. He says that the Guild has written to the civil aviation ministry and has also urged the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to draft a common policy to establish a common limit to the quantity of alcohol that can be served. The request is also to outline certain punitive measures against passengers who get out of hand.
Typical ways to deal with drunk passengers are offloading them at the closest airport and handing them over to the local security agency, if the passenger's behaviour poses a threat to flight operations. Handcuffing drunk passengers who tend to turn violent is also usual; these passengers are then handed over to the airport security upon touchdown, who in turn hand them over to local police. Usually things don't go that far, since sense returns as the alcohol wears off after a long flight, and airlines usually let the errant passengers go after tendering a written apology.