Russia May Try Reining In Drunk Airline Passengers

Drunken passengers pose a problem and sometimes a threat to Russian airlines. Often passengers open the bottles they bought at duty-free shops and drink at length. Legislation to deal with the problem is under consideration.

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Russia has a problem with drunken passengers on airplanes. On its national airline, for example, more than 1,000 incidents of disorderly conduct in the past three years, most of them involving drinking. Well, now, aviation officials are considering drastic measures, as NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: The plan would require flight attendants to take custody of alcohol that passengers buy in duty-free shops, and not give it back until the flight has landed. Russia already has a regulation that says passengers can't dip into their duty-free vodka or cognac while they're in the air, but that's not so easy to enforce when the booze is tucked under the seat.

The legislation was triggered by a spate of incidents in which partying passengers, and sometimes even flight attendants, have been accused of disrupting flights. A couple of years ago, a member of Parliament - said to be in a state of insobriety - got into a fight with a flight attendant on a trip to Paris. Last year, a flight from Moscow to London had to turn back, when an inebriated lady passenger started performing an erotic dance in the aisle, removing other passengers' glasses.

Roman Gysarov, an adviser to the parliamentary committee on transportation, says the problem is a symptom of Russia's prosperity.

ROMAN GYSAROV: (Speaking foreign language)

FLINTOFF: He notes that more Russians can afford to fly these days, boosting air travel by around 15 percent a year. Most of these new travelers are on holiday, Gysarov says; and for some, the party starts the minute they board the plane. Inexperienced travelers may also be uneasy about flying, and crave the calming effect of a drink. The airlines would like to exert more control over the availability of alcohol on board, but Gysarov doubts this will work. He says it's just too unwieldy to have airline personnel take custody of passengers' duty-free liquor when they board.

GYSAROV: (Speaking foreign language)

FLINTOFF: For one thing, he says, the process would probably cause more conflicts and disputes than it prevents. Even if the regulation does go through, passengers will apparently still be able to have a glass of champagne, or an anxiety-relieving sip of gin. Aeroflot has announced no plans to stop serving alcoholic drinks on flights.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow.



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