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Frequent fliers often witness disruption in the cabin caused by excessive drinking. On a recent flight from Pittsburgh to Miami, the passenger next to me in first class started drinking soon after departure at 7:30 a.m. He consumed at least four small bottles before the flight attendant refused to serve him more. I had to tolerate his loud complaints for the rest of the flight. This is not an uncommon occurrence. in today's airline industry.
For decades, airlines allowed smoking, despite complaints from nonsmoking passengers about the smoke wafting into their section. Airlines incurred a number of costs from these smokers. Passengers brought their own cigarettes, while airlines had to clean the cabin and the air. When the U.S. banned smoking on most domestic flights in 1990, it was all financial upside for the airlines. By contrast, security restrictions mean passengers can't bring alcohol into the cabin. Airlines thus have a monopoly on drink sales, which is a revenue center. But is it worth the cost of dealing with disruptive passengers?
Drunken passengers might still occasionally appear at the gate-alcohol would still be available at airport restaurants and lounges. Then again, a ban would benefit those restaurants, which have been hurt since "911", only ticked passengers passengers were allowed in secured areas of the airports. Smokers have adjusted to nonsmoking flights and I believe that drinkers could also adjust.