Are Emergency Landings Due to Drunk, Belligerent Passengers the Crew’s Fault?

Another emergency landing due to a drunk passenger is in the news.  This time, on a flight from London to Riga.

He didn’t start a fight, but he was drunk and belligerent enough to cause an emergency landing in Poland.

From the Daily Mail:

A drunk and aggressive passenger on board a London flight forced a plane to make an emergency landing after he refused to do as he was told.

The plane flying from London to Latvia’s capital Riga had to touch down in Gdansk, Poland, when the unidentified 46-year-old refused to follow cabin crew’s instructions.


First, I am not saying it isn’t the passenger’s fault.  Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the person imbibing.  In this specific case, the man was held in a drunk tank and faced a hefty fine.

drunk man bathroom

He should face the consequences of his actions.  He chose to imbibe so much alcohol that he became a disturbance.

But I always wonder in these cases how the person got that drunk.

As a bartender, I was held responsible for people who got too drunk in my bar.  If they got inebriated then drove home, I could be held responsible for serving the man to the point of being intoxicated.

The stakes are high on the ground and are also high in the air.  It is really expensive to emergency land a plane, not to mention the delays it causes to the passengers and any other scheduled flights dependent on that plane.

I understand that people can sneak alcohol on board, but they also do that in bars.  You can tell by someone bringing their soda into the bathroom with them or when some starts bending down to their ankles that something is up.

And we’re still responsible for monitoring that illicit drinking in addition to the legal drinking at our bar.

We’re also responsible for throwing drunk people out of the bar, even before they sit down for a drink.

This anonymous article written by a flight attendant talks about how drunk people are in flight.  She talks about how they get drunk before they set food on the flight in bars and lounges, and how they also get drunk while in flight.  It seems like being drunk on a plane is something that’s acceptable.  Well, until you cause an emergency landing.

But there is a process for it:

Many airlines are sensitive to people acting drunk on flights, and have trained their cabin crew and ground staff very well in the art of spotting and dealing with inebriated passengers. Disruptive behavior can result in those involved being constrained during the flight, or being arrested on landing. In fact if sufficiently violent behavior is experienced the plane will make an unscheduled stop to have the guilty party arrested. In this case all extra expenses for the landing are on that person’s tab – a very unwelcome addition to anyone’s hangover.

It’s just clear from that article (and the one above) that different flight attendants follow the procedure  more strictly than others.

I’ve personally been cut off in flight once (high five!)  I’ve also wondered why passengers (including myself) are allowed to drink so much in the exit row seats.

But the norms definitely feel different in the air.

So what do you think?  When a plane has to make an emergency landing due to a passenger being too drunk, is the crew partially to blame?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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One comment

  1. Often these people are drinking before they board the plane.

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