Unless the airlines clean up their act voluntarily, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has threatened to introduce legislation that would limit to two the number of alcoholic drinks a passenger could be served during a flight. Feinstein’s proposal, as reported in the Washington Post, makes no distinction among beer, wine and liquor.
Fly the Unfriendly Skies
In her defense, Feinstein cited the growing frequency of “air rage”—verbal and physical abuse of the flight crew by irate passengers. The Air Transport Association estimates that about 4,000 such incidents occur each year. A 1998 study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration linked 43 percent of these violent encounters to inebriated passengers.
“I don’t think we should wait for a plane to go down before we do something about it,” Feinstein was quoted in the Post.
The article, however, prompted a backlash from readers who were skeptical of the senator’s plan. Some noted that many passengers get drunk at airport bars even before they board the plane. Others added that attendants would have a hard time keeping track of who had how many drinks.
Finally, many correspondents pointed out that cancellations, flight delays and other aggravations of air travel seem to be at an all-time high at our nation’s bustling airports. One angry reader wrote the Post, “It’s the airlines, not the alcohol. If the planes left on time, and if their employees treated us with a drop of respect, you wouldn’t see folks blowing up.”
Still another reader suggested that travelers might feel less of an urge to drink if the airlines served food that was halfway edible.
Addendum: According to the website, www.nannyculture.com, a Charlotte, NC-based group named The Skyrage Foundation is calling for trained personnel at all boarding gates to administer a sobriety test to anyone who acts as though he or she has been imbibing too much.
Personally, we think it’s a good idea for the pilots, but a little bit much for the passengers.
Bigger, Bolder Warning Labels
Since 1989, all alcoholic beverage containers have been required to carry a warning message stating that consumption may cause health problems, may impair your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery, and should be avoided during pregnancy.
But how many at-risk drinkers are actually reading the fine print? Not enough, concludes a coalition of 121 organizations and four members of Congress. As a result, the group is petitioning the ATF to make the government-mandated warning much more prominent. Specifically, they’re asking that the warning:
1. appear on the front of the container in a horizontal position;
2. appear in red or black type against a white background and be surrounded by a lined border;
3. contain the words “government warning” in capital letters and boldface type 15 percent larger than the rest of the text;
4. be marked with an icon consisting of a triangle with an exclamation point inside.
As of early August, the ATF was still soliciting comments on the proposal. Considering how slowly the wheels of bureaucracy turn, it might be awhile before the government reaches a decision.
A Taxing Situation
The poster features the familiar visage of Uncle Sam pointing his index finger at the viewer. Instead of saying “I want you,” however, the patriotic icon demands, “I want half of your beer.” The placard informs us, “Did you know the Government takes 44 percent in taxes of every beer sold?”
The Washington, DC-based Beer Institute, which lobbies on behalf of the large brewers, is distributing the posters on Capitol Hill as part of its effort to roll back the 1991 excise tax increase. That legislative action doubled the tax on a barrel of beer from $9 to $18. As of press time, 181 members of Congress had affixed their names to HR 1305, the rollback legislation. For more information, contact www.rollbackthebeertax.org.
Greg Kitsock is editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, a long-time resident of Washington, DC, and a frequent contributor to beer-related publications.