DENVER: Air travel is reaching pre-pandemic levels, but not everything is back to normal. In the midst of the summer travel season, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines have recently announced that they will limit or postpone alcohol service on most flights. Southwest blamed the undisciplined behavior of the passengers, including an assault on one of its flight attendants.
Denver7 wanted to take a 360-degree look at how closing the flight bar can affect air travel for passengers and flight crews. Some believe that alcohol is not the cause of many of the recent problems and believe that most travelers drink responsibly. Others said alcohol service is not necessary and, in the worst case, is problematic.
Jeff Price, an aviation professor at MSU Denver and former deputy director of security at Denver International Airport, said alcohol is often involved in cases of airborne rabies. He said the addition of COVID-19 protocols to flights has made the work of flight attendants even harder and alcohol can add to the problems.
“So now you have a political divide … and now we have to deal with someone who is an idiot, sometimes they do it because they have drunk too much,” Price said. .
Kelley Pico worked as a flight attendant with United for 25 years. She said she and her colleagues had a color-coded system to keep track of passengers drinking on board. They were labeled green, yellow, and red.
“If he got to the red box, that means they were slowing down his speech, they were rude and from time to time he would get out of their hands and we would have to be careful,” Pico said.
Pico supports getting rid of alcohol service on flights, but said he believes it could lead to more people trying to bring their own alcohol on board or drinking before the flight. FAA regulations prohibit the boarding of an intoxicated passenger.
Limiting alcohol service on airplanes can also be good from a health standpoint. Dr. Lindsay “Shelley” Forbes, a fellow at the CU School of Medicine, said drinking at a higher altitude than you are used to can have a different effect on the body.
“One of the biggest ones is dehydration, and that obviously can make you feel a little crunchy, headache, tired,” Forbes said.
But for people who want to get nervous, it’s worth wondering if alcohol can be really good, if it helps calm them down. Cognitive behavioral psychologist Keri Johns said she does not advise using alcohol as a treatment for any type of anxiety. But he said his patients who are afraid to fly admit they sometimes use substances.
“Sometimes having a drink is a very easy and affordable thing to do at the airport or on the plane,” Johns said.
His practice, Cognitive Behavior Therapy Associates of Denver, uses virtual reality therapy to help the dreaded flyers. Patients undergoing VR simulation are asked questions about their anxiety level at different points in the flight simulation.
“The virtual environment allows me to manipulate it so that we can turn it into a simple, easy flight for your first experience, and then we can overcome it and add a little turbulence,” Johns said.
Ultimately, flyers who want alcohol will find a way to have a drink or choose an airline that serves alcoholic beverages. Price doesn’t think airlines that suspend alcohol service see a competitive disadvantage, but that remains to be seen. Some DIA travelers, such as Madi Kupec, said they would choose an airline that still offered alcohol.
“I think flying is luxurious. I think it’s a privilege and having (alcohol) is a reward, “said Kupec.
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