Too many airline passengers are coping with air travel by drinking themselves into unruly behaviour.
On Monday, Air Canada Flight 851 en route to Calgary from London, England, was diverted to Edmonton after a drunk passenger allegedly assaulted a passenger and a female crew member and did some minor damage to the Boeing 777, the Canadian Press reports.
The passenger's obnoxious, drunken behaviour began about three hours into the flight. After repeated refusals to calm down or return to his seat, crew members had to team up to restrain the man.
The pilot placed the plane in lockdown and diverted the flight to Edmonton where RCMP boarded the plane and escorted the passenger away with his arms strapped behind him.
Justin Neil Frank, 35, of Calgary was changed with three offences under the Criminal Code: sexual assault — relating to alleged inappropriate touching of a crew member — mischief to property and causing a disturbance by "fighting and being drunk," the Calgary Herald reports.
He also faces two charges under the Canadian Aviation Act: consuming liquor not served to him and failing to comply with crew member instructions.
Last month, 19-year-old Alyson Beaudoin-Goodman of Newfoundland complained of in-flight harassment from a drunk passenger and criticized Air Canada Jazz for allowing the man to board in an inebriated state.
In May, a drunk American Airlines passenger was restrained in Miami after he rushed toward the cockpit when the plane touched down.
And Llast winter, two RIM executives lost their jobs following their drunken outburst on an Air Canada flight, causing the Toronto-bound plane to be diverted to Vancouver.
WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer told the Calgary Sun that drinking and flying is a daily issue for commercial-airline staff to deal with.
"It will certainly happen somewhere in the system, on average, once a day," Palmer said last year, adding that hot-spot vacation flights are the worst offenders.
"It is problematic to deal with unruly guests and we try obviously to assess this problem before it becomes a problem in the air. Inebriation is by far the most common issue."
Palmer said that most "potential troublemakers" are spotted before they board. The airline then offers another seat on another flight once the individual is sober.
Not all drunk passengers are identified, however, and end up disrupting flights thousands of miles above ground.
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"We go through training seminars on what to do when people are drunk because you never know what you are going to face," a flight attendant named Susan told Sun Media, acknowledging that most of her colleagues would ban the booze if they had a choice.
"If we could hold a vote, I know most flight attendants would vote to get rid of it," she said. "When there's a problem, most of the time it's because of drinking."
In 2010, Russian airline Aeroflot introduced a ban on the sale of alcohol in economy class on selected flights to ensure its passengers "high levels of safety and comfort." Following this ban, it cited "a notable reduction in the number of on-board incidents fuelled by intoxication."
Airport security may be tight, but liquid rules still allow 3.4-ounce bottles in carry-on luggage — The Atlantic posted a "how to make your own screwdriver without breaking TSA rules" article — and even though airline staff are trained to recognize a drunk person pre-boarding, there's no guarantee that a passenger reeking of booze and spiraling into obnoxious behaviour won't end up sitting next to you.
Would you support an in-flight drinking ban? Or is there a less extreme solution to keeping the friendly skies friendly?