When an incredibly and obviously intoxicated passenger is on your flight, do you live and let fly or involve yourself in the situation? What’s your role when the passenger is clearly drunk?
This week I flew back on a short 33-minute flight and had the joy of sitting near and next to, a highly, no, an unbelievably drunk passenger. We started on a longer flight prior to the shorter connection home and I paid no significant attention to him. I was fortunate enough to be upgraded featuring a dinner service with pre-departure beverages, cocktails, then wine was served with dinner on a 130-minute flight.
I wasn’t counting his drinks, I don’t know how many he had. Whatever he had was just a head start on his connection bar trip. Coming from the same flight to the same connecting flight, I noticed him from the previous leg stumbling from a bar stool. He was wearing a purple shirt so that also helped him to stand out.
About 15 minutes prior to boarding the last flight of the day, he was stumbling so badly through the airport hallways, I thought he was injured or handicapped. Then I saw his eyes and remembered him getting around just fine at the prior departure gate during disembarkation.
I was hoping someone might have helped him or alerted the authorities. I’m not really sure what the desired outcome would have been, but the man was not fit for flying, he was barely fit for a nap. But what was my role in his wellness?
Case for Involving Myself
As I saw him nearly collapse onto the travel-beaten carpet of Terminal D, I considered what I could do to help. He could have fallen face down at that point and hit his head on a handrail (he missed and lurched forward when he tried to grab one), he could have slumped over and choked on his own vomit. He could have been a victim of crime by an opportunistic thief. He wasn’t able to care for himself and didn’t seem to have the capacity to form a coherent conversation.
He would have been a serious liability in the case of an accident and that could affect myself, other passengers and crew as well as their families in the worst possible scenario.
I wouldn’t want any of those things to happen to anyone, friend, foe, stranger or acquaintance. As he stumbled off at our mutual destination, my concerns then turned to his ability to get home. Maybe he was taking an Uber or maybe not. He could hurt himself or others and there would be little to stop him from starting his car if he drove himself home.
Case For Minding My Own Business
The airline has some duty to interject in this situation. It starts with the staff on the ground at the departure airport, the gate agent that scanned his ticket, the flight attendant who welcomed him onboard as he stumbled up the stairs. While I am not the “it’s not my job” type – I believe in personal responsibility – it really wasn’t my place.
The passenger wasn’t a disturbance, he slumped over and fell asleep as soon as we took off. He didn’t try to open an exit door, he wasn’t loud or abusive to others on the plane, he was a body in a seat. He ambled off the plane, still stumbling around but he did make it through the terminal, down the escalator, on to the train and off it again, though without the pole on the train he would have slumped to the floor.
He was clearly of legal age to drink, alcohol is not illegal (though public intoxication is) and if he was riding in a taxi or an Uber (I would have declined that ride) he wasn’t a hazard to others.
In the end, I did nothing. I am at odds with whether or not I should have spoken up and potentially stopped a calamity though gladly there wasn’t one that I know of. If there was nothing negative that ultimately happened, was it a case where he was lucky (I have rarely seen functioning humans that drunk) or should I have stepped in regardless? I remain torn.
What would you do? Would you involve yourself or mind your own business? Do I have a duty to do either?