On Friday American Airlines sent out a memo warning staff to expect more intoxicated passengers. To be sure, with business travel still not back in any meaningful way, every airline’s passengers are Spirit Airlines passengers right now – and most flights that don’t cross an ocean are running full. However American ties their warning about drunk customers to “summer approaching.”
With summer approaching, we anticipate a significant amount of leisure traffic, which might include customers travelling while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
The airline isn’t allowed to board passengers who appear to be drunk – and they don’t want to, because that risks having to divert the flight which is costly.
Here’s how they tell staff to know a passenger might be intoxicated or on drugs:
- Has difficulty with balance or fine motor control.
- Speaks with inappropriate volume, pace, or poor enunciation.
- Takes long to respond, is unable to understand or pay attention.
- Emits a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage.
- Behaves in an erratic, obnoxious manner.
- Is extremely argumentative with other customers or employees.
Front line agents aren’t supposed to tell a passenger that they appear to be intoxicated, out of concern for discrimination based on a medical condition. An epileptic, a brain injury, or someone with diabetes who isn’t maintaining their blood sugar levels might appear to be intoxicated to a gate agent. If I ever found myself actually inebriated in the airport, I might claim to have Auto Brewery Syndrome, but since I was inebriated I’d never remember to do this.
Employees are supposed to refuse to board the passenger and contact the Ground Security Coordinator or management to make the call on whether the customer can travel on the flight, or if they should be rebooked later in the day or the next day.
I’m doubtful summer is the driver here, since American flagged this same issue at the start of last fall.