US air safety chief calls for curb on airport alcohol sales

August 06, 2021
Photo: Graham Hills, Wikimedia Commons

US Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson has called on airports to help curb alcohol-fuelled incidents on aircraft by clamping down on sales of takeaway drinks.

He also took a swipe at local police for often failing to launch criminal prosecutions against people who disrupt flights.

As the number of travelers has increased, Dickson said in a letter to airport leaders, so had the number of unruly and unsafe incidents on planes and airports.

READ: Air New Zealand predicts deeper loss due to Aussie COVID lockdowns.

Previously released FAA figures revealed there were more than 3700 reports of disruptive behavior on US flights between the start of the year and August 1.

One the latest involved a Frontier Airlines passenger on a Philadelphia-Miami flight who was duct-taped to his seat after he swore, allegedly groped two flight attendants and punched a third in the face.

The safety agency has introduced a zero-tolerance approach to unruly behavior on aircraft that includes stiff fines and the threat of jail but it has no authority to prosecute criminal cases.

“Every week, we see situations in which law enforcement was asked to meet an aircraft at the gate following an unruly passenger incident,’’ Dickson said in the letter.

“In some cases, flight attendants have reported being physically assaulted.

“Nevertheless, many of these passengers were interviewed by local police and released without criminal charges of any kind. When this occurs, we miss a key opportunity to hold unruly passengers accountable for their unacceptable and dangerous behavior.”

Citing the contribution of alcohol to unruly incidents, Dickson called on airports to work with their concessionaires to help prevent people from carrying alcohol onto planes and becoming inebriated prior to boarding.

He also called on airports to show in public areas such as gate lounges the FAA’s “Kids Talk” video aimed at shaming adults into behaving properly on flights.

“Even though FAA regulations specifically prohibit the consumption of alcohol aboard an aircraft that is not served by the airline, we have received reports that some airport concessionaires have offered alcohol “to go,” and passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated during the boarding process,’’ he said.

“Airports can help bring awareness to this prohibition on passengers carrying open alcohol onboard their flights … through signage, public service announcements, and concessionaire education.”