Mother Arrested in Dubai for ‘Drinking Glass of Wine on Emirates Flights’. True?

A 44 year old woman and mother of three arrived in Dubai off an Emirates flight on July 13. She learned her single entry visa, already used, was not valid for re-entry into the UAE.

It’s not clear why the woman wasn’t eligible for a new visa on arrival, however even if she was apparently the exchange became testy. She was with her four year old. She was asked whether she had been drinking (she was tested and came up 0.04. She acknowledged drinking a glass of wine on her Emirates flight.

Emirates Business Class Bar

The mother and her 4 year old daughter were placed in custody. The girl’s father flew to Dubai and brought the daughter home to the U.K. The woman has been released on bail but her passport is being held and she cannot leave the country pending resolution of the case.

Here are things to know about this situation:

  • Tourists who are 21 years old or more can drink in licensed venues in the UAE as well as onboard flights. Emirates touts their wine program investment. It is not illegal to drink the wine served onboard.

  • Public intoxication though is illegal.

  • This woman arrived with the wrong visa type. Things apparently got testy with the immigration officer. She reportedly took out her camera to film the interaction with immigration which is illegal.

A 0.004 is hardly intoxicated, it’s legal to drive in the U.S. and the legal limit in Australia. However authorities in Dubai seem to have decided that her behavior indicated intoxication, and she acknowledged drinking. If you tell a police officer you’ve been drinking ‘but had only one drink’ you’re offering an admission and law enforcement will assume you are lying (downplaying the amount you consumed).

Emirates Onboard Bar Choices

What’s problematic being charged with something that’s basically not a crime unless the government decides to enforce it. Several Mideast countries can be criticized heavily for this, but it’s hardly unique to the Gulf region. Americans violate laws all the time, usually without consequence, however once you’re the target of an investigation everyday lawbreaking becomes an issue.

Nonetheless this is certainly not a story of “woman drinks wine gets arrested” the way it is playing in the media. Instead it appears to be “woman gets into altercation at immigration, gets arrested, and the government piles on charges.” This seems unfortunate, and disproportionate, though at the same time I’m equally fearful crossing most any country’s borders.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary: “Nonetheless this is certainly not a story of woman drinks wine gets arrested”
    Gary’s title: “Mother Arrested in Dubai for Drinking Glass of Wine on Emirates Flights. Really?”

    HAH! Classic thought leader

  2. So is it .004 or .04? Just a factor of ten difference?

    And just because you aren’t over the limit, doesn’t mean you won’t get arrested in the US for being impaired.

    I know I’m in the minority here but I’m not a fan of parents who drink while taking care of kids. And drinking and/or taking sleeping meds while flying leads to many of these behavior problems in the skies.

    Anytime you are interacting with law enforcement (or the equivalent), do what they say and be polite. If you think they are in the wrong, wait until after the incident and file a complaint. Getting into arguments with them only ends up costing you time, money, etc.

    If she isn’t too stupid, I doubt much will happen other than being out some money unless she continues to be a pain.

  3. I dont understand people who go or fly via those homophobic and xenophobe like countries. I would never fly me3 carriers as o donu duppnt how they treat women and how they have different values. If u visit that country prepare to live by its rules. I hope westerners will not go there any longer and the ones they decide to go I have no sympathy whatever happened to them.

  4. I’ve updated the title to put a caption around the reason for arrest and changed ‘really’ to ‘true’ – I think that does a better job conveying what I intended.

  5. While I don’t agree with how the UAE authorities handled this, anyone who gets surly with an immigration officer is an idiot.

  6. You’re fearful crossing most any country’s borders? Why? I could understand “I get a little nervous'” but “fearful” is odd. Be polite, truthful, and and follow any rules – pulling out a camera to record a conversation at immigration will get you in trouble just about anywhere – and there’s seldom any reason to be fearful.

  7. I think if you travel to a country known for its contempt of women, you get what you get. That said, arguing with immigration never ends well.

  8. I think you have unearthed the most stupid woman in the UK. Why is she arguing with the immigration officer? Everyone knows you don’t do that. Why didn’t she keep her fat mouth shut and do what she was told? This is simply payback.

  9. So.. an international passenger tries to enter a country with a non-valid visa, argues with an officer in front of her 4 year old, gets suspected of drinking, admits to having “one glass of wine onboard”, then blows a .04% (which is certainly not the result of a single glass of wine — .05% is basically the result of 3 eight oz. glasses in an hour then 1 glass every hour thereafter until the test is given). Great role model for the daughter. Although I do fondly remember The Beastie Boys song “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” as being an inspiration.

  10. What a lousy world when people’s right to travel is constantly threatened by right wing governments lead by crasy demigods.Even worse are the “gestopo types who enforce the nutty rule .how hard must your heart be to take a job with immigration control or ICE

  11. .04 is about two glasses of wine. By the time she was tested she was an .04 which means she was higher. You burn off .02 per hour on average. So I’m guessing she had a FEW glasses of wine and was probably intoxicated.

    Yes .04 is leagal to drive in the US. But you still can be arrested for driving under the influence depending on the circumstances.

    I don’t understand why people argue with the authorities. Be cooperative and most likely she would have been allowed to properly resolve the situation.

    Retired police officer

  12. Since you are an x cop – I imagine you don’t understand why people argue with authorities- think about the very word “authorities “ an then think of yourself as a innocent ,peaceful person being harassed by an authority figure for some Mickey Mouse reason like no having the right “papers” ,People have every right to argue with authorities – it is the authorities Who have unilaterally decided to take away this right and punish people for having the autasity to speak up . Seems like fascism too me

  13. Current title ‘Mother Arrested in Dubai for ‘Drinking Glass of Wine on Emirates Flights’. True?’

    The title should be ‘Pasenger Arrested in Dubai on Arrival As They Did Not Have the Correct Visa and Then Broke The Law for Filming Immigration Officials in the Arrivals Hall’

    The title is needlessly sensational in that it implies that it was alcohol that led to her deportation. Many Countries (including Australia) would have held her in detention and put her on the first plane back to where she came from if she arrived without a Right of Entry and if she filmed officials in the Arrivals Hall.

    You can do better than this Gary.

  14. @Tony – the captioned claim is what’s being reported all across media. the reason the claim is seen as sensational is precisely because i break down what actually appears to have happened.

  15. There are better places to argue then at the point of the incident. Like court, supervisors etc.
    She entered without the proper papers. Yes in the US they’d let you in. But other countries follow the rules they established.
    If you don’t like a country’s rules then don’t go or choose to obey them.
    Oh well. We all know that rules don’t apply to all people.:)

  16. From a reliable source that works at DXB airport : She is a Swedish citizen (who happens to live in the UK) and had exceeded the 90 in 180 day limit for visa free entry to the UAE. She was asked to purchase a ticket back to London but refused because she said her daughter was too tired and sat down on the floor at the immigration desk blocking the line for everyone. Police were called to remove her and she started filming them and screaming she was being kidnapped or something similar. She had a strong smell of alcohol on her breath so was asked if she had been drinking and admitted she had a drink on the flight. Accordingly she was arrested and charged with public intoxication. The only reason this is becoming a media issue is because her lawyer is a lady named Radha Stirling who has made a career out of trying to make bad PR for the Maktoum family that rules Dubai, so it has been spun to the British tabloids.

  17. Breathalyzers are notoriously inaccurate. If you burp or have acid reflux ( something that happens when under stress) and bring the wine up from your stomach it will vaporize in your mouth and give a false reading much higher than what your blood alcohol is. Testing blood alcohol by breath in my state is not allowed for 30 minutes for this reason and if you throw up, the time starts over again.

  18. too harsh considering this involves a child BUR she is an idiot for going on expired visa or invalid visa whatever that was. Too stupid with an attitude arguing with a foreign immigration officer in a foreign country. You do that if you want to be sent back. I would never do that! I as a parent wouldn’t drink any wine or alcohol when traveling with a minor! I wouldn’t want her as my dentist. just an idiot she is! BIG LESSON!

  19. Sean, M-

    What does this mean: “exceeded the 90 in 180 day limit for visa free entry to the UAE”. ???

  20. Gary, While I’m sure it wasn’t your intension, I see and had @ehch’s same impression on this one. The title felt like a tag line compared to the article. Something, that if occurred frequently rewould certainly reduce my clicks.

  21. @Sean, Really .. what a joke. 0.004 is a strong smell of alcohol? That looses total credibility in your response.

  22. @C – She had a 0.04 BAC (not 0.004) when tested approximately 6 hours after landing. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

    @AKTCHI – Citizens of the “Schengen” states are entitled to stay in the UAE visa-free for up to 90 days in any consecutive 180 day period (reciprocal to what the Schengen states permit UAE and other citizens). This is in contrast to US/UK and certain other citizens who receive 30 day entry permission each time but with no restrictions on the number of re-entry.

  23. @Gary —> You state that the woman was tested at 0.04% BAC. Later, you say she was 0.004%. That is so low as to be unmeasurable by most equipment, so I am presuming you accidentally added an extra zero.

    Further, you write that the woman in question pulled out her phone to video her interaction with the immigration official WHICH IS ILLEGAL.

    So, was she arrested for having a glass of wine on Emirates, or for arriving on an invalid visa and attempting to fulm/video something against the law?

  24. It sounds to me like she is being persecuted. She probably had no idea that it was illegal to record the interaction with the immigration officer. If its illegal to drink alcohol then why are they serving it on United Emirates flights?

  25. At .04 that tells me that her story about having only one glass of wine isn’t true. She obviously didnt down alcohol immediately before getting off the plane or during the decent so her blood alcohol level was likely higher before she got the test because it decreases over time. For a single glass of wine to give her a ,04 she would have to way like 100 or less. So at the very least she had two and right there we know she isn’t being honest. So if she is lying about that what else is she lying about? She broke out her phone and started filming them and claims she didn’t know she could not do that in an immigration area? Give me a break. The rush to judgement in this article is annoying. I think when the details come out we will hear she did a whole lot more than what she is claiming happened. Still maybe people shouldn’t go to the UAE to begin with, because it is hardly a tolerant country.

  26. @Brandy Stewart – I think that is pretty basic knowledge to people who travel and this was not her first time in Dubai. She is a frequent traveler to Dubai and is well known in the ex-pat community there, so any claims she didn’t know the rules are quite bogus because this was hardly the first time she had been there.

  27. @Jason Brandt Her blood alcohol was .04 so that was just a typo. The authorities have stated she was arrested for filming. That does not mean the could not charge her with multiple crimes but the reason she went to jail was because she threw a fit and started filming in a secure area.

  28. @Henry strozeski Your rant makes you sound like a person who does not have a lot of experience with international travel. Lets make it pretty clear. You don’t have a “right” to argue with authorities in some countries. Feel free to go to some oppressive countries and see how this works out for you and enjoy your stay in a foreign prison (or worse).

  29. It’s also worth noting that a BAC of .04 was measured a decent amount of time after the last possible moment she could have had wine on the flight, meaning that by the time the plane lands, she goes through customs, gets arrested and transported, and then has a tox screen, more than half the alcohol would have been burned-through. So she could have been intoxicated at the moment. It also means she’s lying about one glass of wine.

  30. Never argue with Immigration Authorities in ANY country. Just be humble and ask favors. I read that she was released on sat 11th August by the Royal Family

  31. I agree with Sean M and thank him for providing us with the facts, as opposed to the sensationalist reporting of The Daily Mail and its unintelligent friends. As a British citizen who has lived in Dubai for 9 years, I agree, too, with all here who say: know your destination and respect the laws of the country in which you are a guest. There are rules and customs in any country that may not correlate with one’s personal views, but don’t be so arrogant and spoilt to expect to benefit from that location then have a tantrum when you want the rules to be adjusted to suit you. I can understand why Sheikh Mohammed decided to exercise his characteristic leniency and good sense. But I also feel sad that, over the time I have been living here, the country has been bullied by people like Piers Morgan and the UK gutter press into compromising some of its respect-based traditions and laws in order to avoid being regarded as draconian by western tourists.

  32. From what I read today, when told her visa (or passport, depending on the source) was not valid, she pulled out her second passport which is Iranian. This allows her 96 hours without a visa, and the reason they didn’t put her on a flight directly back.

    What I find amazing is how this story has been blown out of proportion, and how reliable news sources have plastered it everywhere. Must have been a slow news day. Oh, and apparently her “lawyer/publicist” cost £30 000…

  33. Yeah it wasn’t because of alcohol. She tries to enter the UAE with an invalid visa, argues with an Immigration officer, gets suspected of drinking, claims to have drunk one glass of wine, gets a much higher alcoholic reading. Maybe if she didn’t have used an invalid visa in the first place, I’d have some sympathy and you just don’t argue with an Immigrations officer like ever

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