The chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is calling for airport bars to stop selling “to-go” alcoholic drinks, citing an uptick in the number of unruly passengers getting into altercations with airline staff.
“There is no reason that a passenger should be able to leave a restaurant with a “to-go” cup of alcohol and board a plane with it,” Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, said in remarks prepared for a Thursday hearing on the issue.
So far this year, 4,385 incidents of disruptive passengers have been reported, including 3,199 that were related to pandemic requirements that flyers wear masks. Nearly 800 of the episodes were deemed serious enough to warrant investigations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Even with four months remaining in 2021, such inquiries already number more than twice as many as any previous year.
“While alcohol may not always be the primary instigator in some of these confrontations, adding gratuitous alcohol to a violent situation certainly exacerbates the problem and subsequent danger to flight crews and the traveling public,” DeFazio said in his remarks.
Among the witnesses scheduled to appear before his committee are Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, and Christopher Bidwell, the senior vice president for safety at Airports Council International, North America.
The Biden administration has also sought to call attention to the problem. The FAA met Tuesday with airline representatives and urged them to take more aggressive steps to reduce the instances of unruly passenger behavior.
The agency said its senior leaders initiated the meeting, scheduled to be the first of three get-togethers on the topic, because it believes “additional action by the airlines and all aviation stakeholders is necessary to stop the unsafe behavior” despite the agency’s release of a public awareness campaign.
The campaign featured a video of children telling adults to behave themselves on planes. Most airlines stopped selling alcohol on flights as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
The administration recently announced plans to double financial penalties for travelers on air and ground public transportation who violate federal rules requiring masks.
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