A man on a British Airways flight was met with a police escort after threatening passengers in the air. It is not clear whether or not he was actually drinking, but the crew certainly thought so.
She said: “I noticed when we got on the flight he was making a fuss about putting his seatbelt on. That seemed a bit strange.
“We took off, I thought nothing more of it until about halfway through the flight when the cabin crew came round to serve drinks.
“He became angry when a female member of staff asked him if he’d been drinking before the flight. I don’t know if he was drunk or not.”
For some reason, he re-directed his anger to those seated in front of them, and continued threatening them during the flight. The flight attendant let him know that she told the captain about his behavior, which made him more angry.
(Gary Leff from View from the Wing would suggest that this is another example of why drinking should be banned in flight, but in this case, it’s unclear whether he was drinking before the flight. What is clear is the situation escalated when he was asked about his drinking. I still don’t think alcohol should be banned in flight.)
First, this man was clearly in the wrong. Overall, this situation was his fault. But I think there were things the flight attendant could have done to prevent escalating it.
If I think I should cut someone off in a bar, it ultimately does not matter if I think they were drinking. If their behavior is erratic, they should be cut off no matter what.
In this case, I think the flight attendant fell into the trap of wanting the passenger to validate that he shouldn’t be served. I’ve seen a lot of bartenders do this, but it starts creating an adversarial situation.
“Were you drinking?”
The customer is going to say no, unless he willingly doesn’t want to be served.
At this point, what can you do? Any action moving forward is saying “You are a liar.” If you cut the customer off, his immediate response would be, “but I said I wasn’t drinking.”
I’d just say, “I’m sorry, sir, I can’t serve you at this time.” Because it ultimately doesn’t matter if the person was drinking. If their behavior is off enough, you do not want to serve them alcohol and amplify that effect. It doesn’t matter if the behavior is erratic from alcohol, from stress, or from mental illness. That person should not be served.
I also think reporting that the crew was alerting the captain probably escalated the situation a little more–but I understand wanting to use that to show the passenger the consequences of his actions.
What do you think could have gone better (or couldn’t have gone better!) in this situation?