I’ve been seeing this more and more in Canada. The duty free stores at all the major airports have started selling those 50ml mini bottles of spirits. When passengers see them they think “Oh that’d be perfect for my flight!” So of course they buy 5 or 6 of them and simply pop them into their carry on bag. 2 hours later we’re 35,000 feet in the air and I have an intoxicated passenger who I haven’t served, yet am still legally responsible for.
The thing is, I don’t really blame the passenger. I blame the duty free store. Sure the passenger is responsible for buying the item and drinking it on the plane, but I think the DF stores have been feeding the flames, and they need to stop.
If you’ve seen these things at the DF store, it was probably at the register where they’re sold as impulse items. I think the whole idea is so that the passenger sees it, makes the connection that they could easily take it on the plane with them, and doesn’t have much time to think through the implications of what they’re doing.
Once they’ve bought the minis. They’re sold on the idea. We can make announcements to our hearts content, but passengers still drink them.
When I catch people with their own minis (Which is a lot harder to do than catching someone with a 1L bottle) I naturally take it away. Unfortunately they usually have more in their bag. And while I can ask if they have more and try to get them to surrender the bottles, I can’t actually do anything about it unless I physically see them. This makes it extremely difficult to cut someone off who’s been drinking these things.
Here’s the kicker though; every time I’ve taken a mini bottle away from a passenger they tell me the cashier told them they can drink it on the plane.
Let me reiterate that: The cashier told the passenger that they can drink their own alcohol on the plane. Every. Single. Time.
It’s insane. While I know most passengers know better, I also know many do not. Especially at my airline where we cater to vacation travelers. Most of whom don’t fly often or have never flown before.
“Okay; so what’s big deal”, you might say, “Why can’t passengers drink their own booze on the plane? You’re just trying to sell your own product” (I get this a lot when taking peoples alcohol away).
First I want to point out that for every drink sold at my airline, the flight attendant earns $0.06. It is not worth my time to worry about commissions on alcohol sales. There are three things I care about when I catch someone drinking on the plane
1) The safety and security of the aircraft. I will not tolerate loud boisterous behaviour. I will not allow threats to other passengers or crew. I will not allow physical violence on my plane. As such I will control your alcohol intake by only allowing you to purchase it from our bar.
2) I am ultimately responsible for you. Whether or not you drink our booze or your own booze. It’s my job on the line when you are over served. I can have charges pressed against me if you get off the plane drunk and get into a car accident or otherwise get into trouble.
3) It’s the law. At the end of the day, it’s simply illegal to drink your own alcohol aboard a commercial airliner. Same as at a restaurant, a bar, or really any public space. The only difference is I can’t ask you to leave while we’re at cruising altitude.
Understandably I (and many other FAs at my airline) have complained to my airline about the sales of these mini-bottles at the duty free stores. My airline, in turn, announced that they’ll be complaining to the airport authorities. It’s my hopes that we’ll stop seeing these mini-bottles on the shelves at airports. Although I doubt that’ll be happening any time soon.