On the flight back I experienced an occurrence of what is now known as ‘air rage’, although I prefer the term ‘stupid drunk person’. A man, one seat over from me, began the 11 hour flight by drinking from a bottle of Whiskey he had secreted in the front pouch. While this was initially met with the thought ‘are you kidding me?’ it did become more worrying when he’d drunk nearly half of a 1.5L bottle within a few hours.
This incident made me think about what would happen if he turned violent. My first thought was that either the flight staff, or some passengers, would restrain him. However, the man was big, and obviously a bodybuilder, so I couldn’t imagine that happening without problems.
My next thought is that they could land the plane at the nearest airport, and dispose of the guy. Problem: flying over the remote parts of Kazakhstan does not give many landing options, not to mention the immense cost involved in re-routing a long haul flight.
Third solution was drugs. Maybe the staff carries some form of sedative, in case of such emergencies. But then, this opens them up to all sorts of lawsuits if such a sedation causes side-effects not to mention just how you inject a large and violent man in small confines.
Basically it seems that if anything does happen on a long flight then you are, as they would say in the movies, screwed. Fortunately for us the man in question was not a violent drunk, and just annoyed people with singing, loud talking, and chocolates. The tactic of the flight staff was to ply him with additional alcohol in the hope he would fall asleep. A dangerous route, but one that eventually worked, much to the benefit of the poor girl who was sat between me and the drunk.
After talking about it with my flat mate I decided to look into the problem some more, and found all sorts of scare-stories. The best is from The Smoking Gun, a website dedicated to ‘uncovering’ such stories. Another site turned up this lovely image:
Deceit at 33,000 feet?
While the problem does definitely exist, I wonder how much is a consequence of the media latching onto another threat to our safety. It would be interesting to see the problem in the context of the whole travel industry.