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Booze-to-Go at the Airport. What Could Go Wrong?

As reported by USA Today, lawmakers in Missouri are expected to pass a bill that will amend the state’s liquor law to allow travelers to take alcoholic drinks with them to their boarding gates.

Drinks would not be allowed past security, so the booze-to-go would have to be purchased at establishments doing business in the gate areas. And flyers would still not be permitted to bring their cocktails with them when boarding their flights.

While the looser rules stop short of turning airports into alcohol-fueled free-for-alls, they will certainly result in more pre-flight drinking, which is highly likely to increase rowdiness at the gates, which are already high-stress areas.

And even with the prohibition on carry-on cocktails, does anyone doubt that at least a few flyers will sneak their to-go cups onboard with them?

I’m no teetotaler, but I’m absolutely convinced that travel and alcohol are a potentially volatile mix. With flights running at historically full levels and seating more cramped than ever, air rage is an ever-present threat. And alcohol is often a contributing factor.

In a report issued in December 2016, the International Air Transport Association called “unruly passengers” a “significant problem”:

Unruly passenger incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment , verbal abuse, smoking, failure to follow safety instructions and other forms of riotous behavior. Although such acts are committed by a tiny minority of passengers, they can create inconvenience, threaten the safety and security of other passengers and crew, and lead to significant operational disruption and costs for airlines.

A spokesperson for Missouri’s Lambert International Airport lauded the new legislation, citing an enhanced customer experience and lower travel costs, and dismissed concerns of drunken misbehavior as unfounded. “This is not an issue of where you’re going to see unruliness as a result.”

I wouldn’t drink to that.

Reader Reality Check

Drinking and flying: What could go wrong?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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