Biden Admin: To Prevent ‘Unruly’ Passengers, No More Airport Alcohol ‘To-Go’

Flying has become a miserable experience, and COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem – one that the Biden administration has contributed to.

One of President Joe Biden’s first acts was to mandate masking on federal property and during interstate travel on planes, buses, and trains.

Yet as the number of incidents of recalcitrant passengers has skyrocketed, the administration is looking for a scapegoat – and finding it alcohol producers and airport bartenders.

In a letter Tuesday to airport managers across the country Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson campaigned for an end of “to go” alcohol sales.

“During the last year, the aviation system has faced many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to see new challenges that require the entire industry to work together as the burgeoning recovery takes off,” Dickson wrote.

“As the number of passengers traveling has increased, so has the number of unruly and unsafe behavior incidents on planes and in airports.”

He noted the Biden FAA has adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy toward this type of behavior on airplanes earlier this year, and “we are taking the strongest possible action within our legal authority.”

“But we need your help,” he pleaded.

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  • The FAA, Dickson said, has levied civil fines against unruly passengers. But it has no authority to prosecute them criminally, and in many cases, local police interview the miscreants release them without criminal charges, even in some cases when flight attendants have reported being physically assaulted.

    “When this occurs, we miss a key opportunity to hold unruly passengers accountable for their unacceptable and dangerous behavior,” Dickson wrote.

    The FAA has determined that “alcohol often contributes to this unsafe behavior,” Dickson noted.

    Accordingly, the FAA is requesting that airports work to curtail this.

    Per FAA regulations, passengers are not allowed to consume alcohol while aboard an aircraft that is not served by the airline.

    But the agency has gotten reports that some airport concessionaires offer alcohol “to go.”

    “Passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated during the boarding process,” Dickson wrote.

    “Airports can help bring awareness to this prohibition on passengers carrying open alcohol onboard their flights in through signage, public service announcements, and concessionaire education.”

    “Many of you are already showing our Zero Tolerance video in your passenger lounges and other common areas,” he added. “We ask that you also show this PSA in any location in your airport where it might catch passengers’ attention, particularly in boarding areas.”

    “We have the safest aviation system in the world, and you are a key partner in that success,” Dickson concluded. “I know that we can keep it that way with your continued help and these additional actions.”

    Of course, Dickson did not explain why people were suddenly “unruly.”

    To-go booze is nothing new.

    The website Thrillist.com reported in 2018 that many major U.S. airports – including those in Tampa, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale – allowed passengers to wander the terminal with their adult beverages.

    So, that means something is different than before.

    The FAA provided a clue itself last month when it announced that during the first half of 2021 it had handed down $682,000 in fines against unruly passengers.

    Unlike Dickson, the FAA noted that as of July 6 it had received 3,271 reports of unruly behavior by passengers.

    That included “about 2,475 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal facemask mandate.”

    Maybe instead of cracking down on the drinking itself, the FAA should consider why people are drinking – and act accordingly.

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