Postcard from... Moscow


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The Independent Online

Last week, a flight from Moscow to Phuket was forced to land in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, after a passenger got so aggressive that a fight broke out on board and the pilot decided the safety of the crew and other passengers was at risk. The incident, just a week after a drunk passenger assaulted a steward on a flight to Hurghada in Egypt, has again raised the issue of mile-high hooliganism in Russia.

The country's airlines want to introduce a blacklist of passengers they can prevent from boarding. Aeroflot's director said this week that the airline already has a list of 1,800 troublesome passengers, but cannot ban them under current rules.

Anyone who has taken a flight to or from Russia, or worse still an internal flight inside the country, will know that on any given plane there is likely to be at least one passenger steadily working his way through a whole bottle of duty-free booze.

More often than not, the only person they harm is themselves, quickly passing out. If they are a nuisance at all, it is only in the form of loud snoring.

But, occasionally, things can take a violent turn. I've seen a fight start over a passenger trying to smoke in the toilet, and a man falling flat on his face in the aisle after drinking an entire bottle of cognac within two hours of take-off.

A friend on a flight to Hong Kong reported a man getting so drunk that stewards tied him up, wrapped him in blankets and laid him flat on the floor, where he sang the Belarusian national anthem before passing out. A blacklist might be helpful, but enforcing the "no drinking of duty-free alcohol on board" rule could be more effective.