Plane passengers should have to pass a breathalyser test before boarding if they show signs of being drunk at the gate, writes Stephen Jardine. Disrupting a flight should lead to a 10-year flying ban.
Imagine this. You’ve worked hard and saved all year for your family summer holiday only to end up fearing you will all die. This isn’t white-water rafting, swimming with sharks or being mugged in some far-flung land, in fact this is before your holiday has even started.
Last week we yet again faced holiday flight hell headlines in the papers. This time 30 drunken yobs terrorised passengers on a Ryanair flight from Edinburgh to Ibiza. Wearing T-shirts depicting a sex act, they boasted about photographing their genitalia, abused and intimidated staff and even threatened to open the doors mid flight.
A mother who was travelling with her son later said: “He was in tears. Children shouldn’t have to sit through that, nobody should. A couple of elderly people were visibly shaking. I’ve never been so disgusted and intimated in my life.”
If this was a one-off, you could put it down to the annual outing of Cretins Anonymous, released into the community to demonstrate what happens when you mix low intelligence with lots of alcohol. However this is far from a one-off incident. In fact we see more inflight booze mayhem than sunshine in Scotland during the summer. This latest incident provoked the usual response. Passengers were terrified, the culprits were met by local police and reprimanded and the airline issued a mealy-mouthed rebuke.
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What will it actually take for someone to take this seriously? Tragically, the answer is probably a tragedy at 30,000ft. Then the resulting inquiry will ask, why on Earth didn’t we act sooner? I don’t really blame the drunks. Every village has an idiot and if you put 30 together you get that result. Natural selection or becoming parents and developing common sense will eventually sort them out.
Instead we need to point the finger elsewhere. Airports are no longer merely logistical hubs facilitating travel. Instead they’ve been transformed into voracious money-making machines with comfort, enjoyment and everything else sacrificed in the interests of generating income. If that means funneling booze into people about to hurtle through the air in a metal tube, that’s fine with them.
The consequences of that should be evident at the departure gate but hang on, once boarding is complete, they are someone else’s responsibility so let’s crack on. Not content with charging you for you seat, your bag and your meal, up in the sky the airline desperately want more money so that means selling booze.
In a statement on the latest incident, Ryanair said “the safety and comfort of our customers, crew and aircraft is our number one priority”. Is it really? When other passengers tried to change their return seats to avoid being seated near the drunks they were charged for the privilege.
For the sake of the imbeciles causing the trouble, let’s keep the solution simple. Anyone suspected of drinking can be breathalysed at the gate. Too drunk to drive equals too drunk to fly. And anyone who disrupts an aircraft is banned from flying for 10 years.
It really is that easy but don’t expect that to happen while revenues remain more important than ruined holidays.