Travel Etiquette : Boozing It Up On Morning Flights

The drink cart … something many passengers seem to eagerly wait for, regardless of the length of a flight or the time of day a flight is flying.  While there is nothing wrong with a Bloody Mary in the morning or a shot of Jack Daniels in the evening, just like drinking on the ground, drinking in the air should be done in moderation.


Earlier this month I boarded a morning flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, a short flight, typically lasting an average of 90 minutes from wheels-up to wheels-down, I took my seat against the window and off we went. Not long into the flight the gentleman in the seat next to me started a personal conversation. Nice enough guy, but I didn’t need to know about his sex life, former girlfriends or his desire to party so hard in Los Angeles that he wouldn’t even need a hotel room. The conversation he started isn’t what struck me as odd, given that you meet all types on planes and in airports, nor was it that my seat mate had already clearly bellied up to the bar before boarding the flight.


What struck me as odd about my seatmate was his 11:30am drink order. When the drink cart came by I ordered a Coke with no ice and the gentleman on the aisle ordered a Coke as well, but the gentleman in the middle seat ordered a can of orange juice of four bottles of Skyy Vodka.


Given that airline mini-bottles of liquor are usually 1.69oz and a standard  vodka shot is 1.5oz, the flight attendant without batting an eye handed the passenger slightly more than four shots of Vodka.  As the flight progressed, with less than an hour to go, the gentleman in the middle seat never opened his orange juice, but managed to drink the four bottles of vodka in the span of a few minutes, much to the amazement of his two seat mates.   From there, his conversation just went off the rails and no matter how much I tried to keep my noise canceling headsets on and work, I kept finding myself being tapped on the arm and interrupted from working.


All the hints in the world can’t make an intoxicated passenger shut up and you just can’t get up and walk away on a plane.


Now, this isn’t the first time I have shared a seat with an intoxicated passenger, or an intoxicated passenger in the morning, but it reminded me of the need for some sort of general travel etiquette for both the passengers and the cabin crew.


So here goes for the etiquette … if you must drink excessively while traveling, no matter how much you want to tell your seatmate about your sex life, please refrain from it.  If you want to be an armrest hog, fine, use the armrest, but if your seatmate has headsets on, leave them alone.  If you glance over and see your seatmate staring at a computer, typing away and working, consider that it may not be a good time to start tapping them on the shoulder and begin to ask them about their sex life.


As for cabin crew, I know you have a hard job, and I know most of you don’t hand out liquor by the case, but if you could … try not to hand out four bottles of Vodka at a time on a 90 minute flight. Also, try not to hand out booze to someone who already appears to be half-in-the-bag.


Below is a photo of my seatmate’s ‘breakfast’ on board Delta Air Lines Flight 2241, during our 1 hour 36 minute flight from SLC to LAX.


Keep this in mind … don’t be the guy in Seat 20E.


Happy Flying!




a group of blue bottles with blue caps next to a can of orange juice


  1. There should be a two bottle limit per purchase. On longer flights there can be subsequent passes of the drink cart. Flight attendants, just as on the ground bartenders, should limit the intake of alcohol by drunks, or be prepared to break out the duct tape.

  2. Sorry to say it, but the only time I see flight attendants handing out more than one or two mini-bottles of booze at a time, is when they don’t intend on doing a second (even cursory) drink service, and instead choose to stand in the galley and chat!

  3. Gene,

    I snapped the photo while the Gentleman in 20E was in the face of his seatmate in 20D … who also couldn’t escape. He had no idea I shot the photo, I didn’t wish to engage him.

    Happy Flying!


  4. Timely post. Just had a few Bloody Marys on a 9 am flight this morning. But was a somewhat rare first class flight for me and she kept bringing them unsolicited so couldn’t turn them down! Didn’t say a word to my seatmate though.

  5. I may be wrong about this, but aren’t bartenders liable if they serve alcohol to someone inebriated who then goes off and hurts someone? It seems to potential risk to an airline especially in a plane might dictate some caution.

  6. Airplanes and airports are one of the only places where it’s socially acceptable to drink in the morning anymore… I see no problem with that. I’ve been known to indulge in the AM while traveling before. This man’s actions would be inappropriate no matter what time of day!

    I’m on many 60-90 minute flights. Sitting in F, 3-4 drinks isn’t uncommon. 1 predeparture beverage plus 2-3 in flight. Yet somehow the rest of us lushes are able to refrain from discussing our sex lives with strangers.

  7. I thought I read in at least one airlines’ terms that they limit you to 1 alcoholic beverage at a time. A few weeks ago, when I asked for 2 (just to save the FA time on a longish flight), she very gracefully handled me with “How about one for now, and then as soon as I finish — it’ll be quick! — as soon as I finish, I come back and see how you are doing?”
    Although I had no intention of getting snockered on the flight, she handled me with grace and respect, and was suggesting a way in which my request could be honored while still meeting the airlline rules.

  8. He ordered the OJ to make him look like he was not that much of a loser. Four screwdrivers at 11 am much more acceptable than Four shots of vodka.

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