Belfast Telegraph

Fionola Meredith: Our airports, airlines and alcohol don't mix - it's the sober majority who suffer

Leave the booze-addled few on the tarmac, we don't want any more flights being disrupted, says Fionola Meredith

A passenger who caused chaos on a recent flight has been sent a bill for £85,000 by the airline
A passenger who caused chaos on a recent flight has been sent a bill for £85,000 by the airline
Fionola Meredith

By Fionola Meredith

Do I have any sympathy for the young woman who's just been presented with a £85,000 bill by Jet2 after she caused chaos on one of its flights? Not a jot. I bet you don't either.

Anybody who has been confined for hours in a claustrophobic cabin along with disruptive fellow passengers will share a grim smile of satisfaction. At last, a misery-spreading traveller is faced with the full financial consequences of their foul behaviour.

True, most of us haven't been confronted with the level of horror created by 25-year-old Chloe Haines during the flight from London Stansted to Dalaman in Turkey on June 22.

According to an eyewitness, she sent a flight attendant "flying across the plane", and screamed: "I am going to kill everyone." Haines also tried to open the aircraft door and to force her way into the cockpit. The flight diverted back to Stansted, accompanied by two RAF Typhoon fighter jets.

Next time Chloe goes on holiday - if any airline is mad enough to let her near one of their planes - that £85,000 bill will be a little reminder to her to play nice.

Seriously, can you imagine how terrifying it must have been to be locked into that small space, hurtling through the air at 30,000 feet, with Haines on the rampage?

What would it have been like for the children on board, all excited for their sunshine holiday, when she unleashed her lunatic fury?

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I don't know if alcohol was involved in this incident - although it's been reported that Haines had been banned from the roads for drink-driving just two weeks before the incident - but it often is.

Every time you read about the police being called to escort a disruptive passenger from a recently landed flight, as we often do at this holiday time of year, you think: hammered?

Yes, very probably.

Alcohol and flying are a crazy combination. Getting thoroughly tanked-up before a flight, whether it's scheduled for 8pm at night or 8am in the morning, practically guarantees rowdy chaos of one kind or another, even if nobody is threatening to bring down the plane.

God help the other passengers, who are about to be herded into a flying cattle pen with these boozers, the cabin air rapidly filling with the stench of beery burps (or worse) and the high-decibel roar of a Friday night at Wetherspoons.

Recently I had the misfortune to be sitting at the back of an early morning flight during which a drunken man - part of a stag party - staggered repeatedly to the loo in order to vomit with what I can only describe as operatic zeal.

He swooped up to the high notes like Pavarotti. I could hear him very clearly through the thin partition wall - but then so could everyone else because he didn't bother to shut the door.

It seems incredible to me that airports can quite legitimately sell glasses of booze to passengers at the crack of dawn. I mean, who needs to down a double whiskey at 7am? It's especially bizarre here in Northern Ireland, with its otherwise fanatically puritan and utterly illogical licensing laws.

For instance, it makes no sense whatsoever that small local businesses which make their own cider or beer aren't allowed to open their breweries to the public, but that airport bars can dish out dry white wine by the shedload at a time when most of us are having breakfast.

That's nuts, no?

As we have seen, the consequences can be messy. On a recent flight from Belfast to Palma a passenger claimed that some people were so drunk when they arrived on board that they could barely walk, and that they shouted and used abusive language during the flight. I'm not surprised - we have all witnessed it, and yet still it happens.

Airlines have a duty to protect the majority of civilised, law-abiding passengers from the minority of selfish idiots who turn up drunk out of their skulls and still expecting to fly.

If somebody is having trouble making it up the aircraft stairs, then that's a big clue that they shouldn't be allowed to board. Just leave them there on the tarmac to sober up.

When we actually get a functioning government - some time in the next millennia or so - it should rip up and rewrite our ridiculous old licensing laws.

We need a system which cracks down on disruptive problem drinkers and protects the rights of everyone else to enjoy a pint or two at a time and place of their choosing. As long as it's not 6.30am at the airport bar.

Nobody needs that.

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