Inflight Alcohol Ban Debate Revived by New Health Study

By Ivan PetrenkoJun 17, 2024 10:32 AMNews
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Glasses of red berry drinks on a tray
Consuming alcohol on flights can be dangerous. Source: unsplash

A recent study from German researchers at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine has reignited discussions about banning alcohol on airplanes. The study suggests that consuming alcohol during flights and then sleeping significantly increases the risk of heart attacks.

The study monitored 48 participants aged 18 to 40, comparing their sleep patterns on the ground and in the air, both with and without alcohol consumption. Those who drank alcohol in simulated flight conditions experienced heightened heart rates and reduced blood oxygen levels. The findings indicate that the combination of alcohol and hypobaric conditions can strain the cardiac system, even in healthy individuals, potentially exacerbating symptoms in those with existing heart or lung conditions.

Despite its small scale, the study has sparked renewed calls for restricting inflight alcohol consumption. Historically, inflight alcohol service has not been linked to significant harm since it began in the 1940s. However, the new research aligns with ongoing concerns about the health risks posed by drinking on planes.

Proponents of the ban argue that restricting alcohol could prevent potential health crises and reduce alcohol-related incidents on flights. During the pandemic, many airlines temporarily stopped serving alcohol in economy class, leading passengers to drink excessively before boarding or smuggle alcohol onboard. This behavior resulted in higher levels of intoxication early in flights, suggesting that controlled alcohol service might be safer than an outright ban.

However, implementing a ban presents challenges. Passengers could still legally consume alcohol if served by flight attendants, complicating enforcement. Some airlines, like Air India, have already prohibited passengers from drinking duty-free alcohol onboard, while others, like Cathay Pacific, may allow it in premium cabins.

The debate over inflight alcohol bans is not new. In the 1950s, Senator Strom Thurmond proposed legislation to prohibit alcohol on planes, citing safety concerns, the burden on flight attendants, and the exposure of non-drinkers and children to alcohol. Despite his efforts and the moral and safety arguments presented, the ban was never implemented.

As discussions continue, the balance between passenger freedom and health and safety remains a central issue. Whether the new study will lead to policy changes or remain a point of debate is yet to be seen.

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