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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Alcohol in flights, a rejoinder

In any flight situation, one incident, regardless of severity, is one time too many.
COMMENT
drunk-in-flight,-flight-attendants,-stewardessBy Tong Ka Chua

I think many Malaysians have become too paranoid, polarised and smug.
They understand not what was written but choose to see it their way.
Recently, I wrote a piece to support the ban of alcohol consumption during flights. The reaction I got was “quite a bit” to say the least.
Let me catalogue the arguments put forth by those who disagree.
First, consuming alcohol, including during flights, is a “human rights” issue. It is their right to drink because unlike smoking, drinking is not a fire hazard or does not “disturb” others with secondary smoke.
Second, if drinking is banned today, tomorrow they will find reasons to ban other things including those wearing short shirts from boarding the planes. Essentially, some of the arguments were tainted with “insinuations” against the intrusion of certain religious values onto those not professing the religion.
Third, the drinkers know their limits. If not, the flight attendants will know how to restrain them.
Fourth, rowdy behaviour from drinking is usually not serious and far in between. The flight attendants are trained to handle or control them.
Fifth, we should tolerate disturbance caused by drinking just like the way we tolerate babies crying during flights.
Sixth, alcohol is a “calming panacea” for certain passengers as it helps to “smoothen” nerves when one is on a long-distance flight.
There could be other arguments that I was not able to include here.
I think our differences in the standard of human rights and religious beliefs have seriously clouded our ability to look at issues rationally and objectively.
From what is basically an operational and safety issue, we have somewhat skewed the whole arguments into the wrong direction.
I do not deny there are serious concerns over personal liberty, religious bigotry and the tendency to impose values on others. But in this instance, orderliness, safety concerns and comfort of all passengers should override other considerations, real or imagined.
Allowing some people to go “under the influence” in a confined and volatile space is really not a good idea. When drunkards start to abuse and intimidate others, there is really no avenue for them to diffuse the situation by walking away.
If so far as alcohol related incidents have been non-threatening and far in between, should we then allow the drinking to go on? I thought in any flight situation, one incident, regardless of severity, is one time too many.
Why can’t we accept that people “under the influence” are generally unpredictable? Why are we so adamant in wanting to uphold our rights to drink during flights?
Is it because drinks are provided “free” (paid for by all passengers and therefore, subsidised by non-drinkers)? When we travel long-distance in express buses, do we generally drink alcohol?
No doubt, flight attendants are trained to handle emergencies and other untoward incidents. But why hassle them with potential volatile situations when we could have avoided them from the beginning.
Irritations caused by babies crying and drunkards ranting are very different. I think only alcoholics would not know the difference. By the way, not all drinkers know their limits. We just need a few who do not to cause the trouble for everyone else.
Finally, if air travel causes anxiety and nervousness for some, there are other alternatives besides alcohol to calm them. I hope we are not finding another excuse to drink.
For the good of everyone, it is better to go alcohol free. A few hours without drink will not kill us.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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