Sugar Water: We Love to Fly Drunk and It Shows

Written by Current Events, Sugar Water

U.S. airports will soon be selling more alcohol to raise revenue for cash-strapped local governments, while airlines continue to charge fees for checked baggage and other services. Investigative reporter Robert Cass pretends to be outraged, then drinks.

On August 9 a passenger on a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh to New York City allegedly disobeyed flight attendant Steven Slater’s request to remain seated until the aircraft had reached a full stop at JFK Airport. The passenger had already cursed at Slater before takeoff and accidentally hit him in the head with the door of an overhead bin during an argument about her carry-on luggage.

Slater vented his frustration over the plane’s PA system at the end of the flight. According to the New York Post the 39-year-old yelled, “To the f**king a**hole that told me to f**k off, it’s been a good 28 years!” He then deployed the plane’s emergency slide, grabbed his two carry-on bags and a couple of beers from the beverage cart, and slid down to the runway.

Despite his controversial math, which implies he’s been an indentured air servant since the age of 11, Slater was instantly hailed as a hero by many on the Internet. Still, to others, including myself, his actions were inexcusable: Only two beers? Talk about going out with a whimper … (As reported by the Post, Slater is a recovering alcoholic, so some will say my criticism is inexcusable. Fair enough. Say, how about you buy me a beer and we hash out our differences?)

Air travel has a stellar safety record — the average American is 2,200 times more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash — but it’s still fraught with tension, not to mention f**king a**holes who think they know more than everyone else on the plane. So what’s the best way to defuse all that tension before passengers board the plane? Alcohol, of course! And what’s the best way to ensure that you become a f**king a**hole like all the rest? Oh, right — alcohol.

Like it or not, the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems, as Homer Simpson once said, will soon be more widely available in airports. The Wall Street Journal reported on August 6 that plans for “a 1,200-square-foot liquor store inside baggage claim” at Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport are under way; Vino Volo, a San Francisco airport wine-bar chain, hopes to have 50 locations across the U.S. by 2015; and Chicago’s Department of Aviation will allow bars at O’Hare and Midway to operate 24 hours a day, “and authorized licenses for as many as 17 stationary pushcarts to sell beer and wine around the clock.”

Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley initially proposed the ordinance in late June at a City Council meeting, explaining to local reporters, “Many times, people enjoy to have a drink. Is there anything wrong with that?” No, there isn’t, but judging by the mayor’s grammar, he was already buzzed when he arrived at the meeting.

The city’s aviation commissioner, Rosemarie Andolino, added in a press release that the ordinance would “provide the highest level of service to the traveling public” — you know, like recovering alcoholics who might not want Budweiser offered to them from a bar on wheels at the crack of dawn — “while providing opportunities to generate additional revenue for the city.”

Ka-ching! Thanks to the Windy, Wobbly City, we’re reminded once again that money is the other cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.

Chicago is facing a $654 million budget deficit in 2011, and therefore will do whatever it can to make up the difference. After all, its two airports missed a huge opportunity back in April, along with every other airport in the U.S., when they failed to provide 24-7 bottle service to passengers left stranded due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, the ash-cloud-producing volcano in Iceland whose name is so impenetrable you might as well get drunk before you pronounce it, because you’ll be slurring your speech either way.

Luckily, with these new airport liquor laws in place, America will be ready the next time Eyjaf— … that volcano erupts; if my calculations are correct, all heck should break loose sometime around 2257. You and I will be long gone, of course, but municipal budget crises and overpriced Bloody Marys are forever.

However, if airports truly want to provide the highest level of service to customers, shouldn’t they set up FAA (Flying Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings right outside each departure and arrival gate? Yes, it’d be a bit of a buzzkill for responsible drinkers such as myself, but as long as these support groups don’t get in the way of my keg stands, I say live and let live, because we’re all in this together.

Seriously, have you seen the prices the airlines are charging these days?

Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that “airlines collected $1.3 billion from fees for checked baggage and reservation changes in the first three months of this year, a 13% increase over the same period in 2009,” while the Associated Press noted that last year they collected a total of $7.8 billion in revenue “for so-called ancillary fees … up a staggering 42 percent from 2008.” On August 1 Spirit Airlines began charging passengers $45 at the gate, $30 in advance, for any carry-on bags they wish to store in the overhead bins.

The airlines say the tax-free revenue offsets high fuel costs, but airfare prices for June and July were 22 percent higher than last year, according to an April report on Bing Travel’s website. So, let me see if I’ve got this straight …

a) Fuel prices are high.

b) Airline raises ticket prices and charges customer to check his or her bags, which helps pay for fuel.

c) Customer, who wants to forget how much he or she is paying to get from point A to point B, mutters wearily, “I need a drink …”

d) Airport provides requested drink to customer, in turn raising revenue for city services such as public transportation.

e) After seven more drinks, customer loses title to car in ill-advised bet with airport shoeshine guy, increasing his need for services such as public transportation.

f) Demand for automobile fuel decreases, as does cost of fuel, bringing airfare prices back to reasonable levels and, with any luck, reducing the number of f**king a**holes who make life miserable for airline employees like Steven Slater.

g) Alcohol restores order to the universe (again).

Granted, if you and I were both drunk right now this logic of mine would make more sense, but it’s obvious why Mayor Daley’s been in office for more than 20 years — figuratively, he may end up driving people to drink, but if they’re not literally driving themselves anywhere while drinking, isn’t that in everyone’s best interests?

In conclusion, please enjoy to have a drink.

Now, as an added bonus, here’s a fun drinking game you can play on any commercial aircraft, especially once the booze starts flowing more freely on the ground before takeoff:

* If a passenger sitting next to an emergency exit opens the exit right before takeoff so he can vomit, drink!

* If you ask a flight attendant to hold your hair while you vomit and he/she doesn’t laugh, drink!

* If the pilot enters the cabin and asks a small child, “Would you like to see the cockpit, son? In fact, would you like to fly the plane? Captain Dave had a three-cocktail lunch and needs a little shut-eye before we land,” start praying, then drink!

* If you receive an encouraging text message from Peter Buck, the R.E.M. guitarist who was arrested in 2001 after going into a drunken rage on a British Airways flight and allegedly telling the pilot, “You’re just a f**king captain and I’m R.E.M.,” make sure you brag about it first on Twitter and Facebook, then drink!

* If you find yourself sitting next to a person who refuses to turn off his or her phone until the flight attendant’s third warning, drink! And if you are that person, then it’s probably time you reevaluated some of the decisions you’ve made so far in life.

* If you’re kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat to fit in a seat, as Cop Out director Kevin Smith was last February, drink! Then sue.

* If you’re surprised to find that the in-flight movie is being shown in 3-D, guess what? It’s not. You’re hallucinating. How’d you get those pills past security anyhow? Look, just breathe, okay? Breeeeathe … that’s it … As long as Shrek doesn’t turn into an angry, digitally animated hijacker, you should be fine. Now drink!

* If you find yourself paying attention to the flight attendant’s demonstration of safety procedures for the first time in years but you’re suddenly confused as to how a seat belt works, STOP DRINKING. You’ve reached your limit.