Passengers who want alcohol will still find alcohol, but a sad story this week in Alabama demonstrates the continued problem of alcohol onboard commercial flights. Yet the answer is not to ban alcohol, but to demand personal accountability.
Drunk Woman Strips On United Express Flight After Argument With Seatmate
Sierra Nicole McClinton, 25, was traveling on United Express (CommutAir) from Jacksonville (JAX) to Houston (IAH) and got into an altercation with her seatmate.
The single flight attendant onboard and another passenger tried to calm her down but ended up restraining her after she became increasingly agitated.
It isn’t clear why (perhaps she vomitted on her clothes?) but McClinton stripped down to a t-shirt and her underwear. Her continued bellicosity prompted a diversion to Mobile, Alabama (MOB). On the ground, authorities escorted her out in her underwear as she yelled obscenities through the cabin.
She has been charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication.
Addressing the incident, CommutAir said:
“CommutAir flight 4332, operating as United Express from Jacksonville to Houston, diverted to Mobile when a passenger became disruptive. The aircraft landed safely in Mobile where law enforcement officials met the aircraft at the gate. The flight continued on to Houston shortly after.”
Alcohol Onboard? The Continuing Debate
I’m not a teetotaler by any means. I also think a call for a general ban on alcohol onboard is counterproductive and dead on arrival.
Indeed, there was no alcohol served onboard in our story above. And for every story of alcohol and flying not mixing, I suspect there are hundreds if not thousands of passengers who encounter no issues.
So as much as a knee-jerk reaction to this issue might be a call to ban alcohol, that is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Instead, flight attendants should be vigilant of passenger behavior and not exacerbate inebriation by serving additional alcohol. This is especially true as United (and therefore United Express) will resume alcohol sales later this week.
More importantly, however, is holding passengers accountable for their actions. McClinton was charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication, but will she get a bill from United or CommutAir for the additional fuel and wages for the diversion to Mobile?
It seems to me that there will always be outliers who act up onboard, but we can further reduce the incidence of such events by actually holding drunk passengers responsible for the foreseeable costs of their poor behavior.
Hopefully McClinton was just having a bad day. Whatever the case, though, she should face civil, not just criminal, penalties for her actions. Accountability (and a bit of public shaming, when appropriate) is key to reducing the prevalence of poor behavior.
(H/T: View from the Wing // image: Mobile Police Department)