Simon Calder: High and dry - the best way to fly

The captain is always right. The Air Navigation Order 2005 says so: "Every person in an aircraft shall obey all lawful commands which the commander of that aircraft may give for the purpose of securing the safety of the aircraft and of persons or property carried therein". Sit back, relax and do as the captain tells you.

Yet as the BA Boeing to Cairo sat at the gate at Heathrow, we passengers aboard the 747 were advised "never believe the captain" by his flight-deck colleague, the senior first officer.

"He told you we were going to be leaving on time. In fact, there's a passenger who's unable to travel with us, and so we will be offloading his baggage, which will delay us by about 10 minutes."

That phrase "unable to travel" could mean anything. A sudden attack of pre-flight nerves? A last-minute domestic emergency? Or, given the heightened state of nervousness about terrorism, some dodgy Giza-bound traveller? Discreet enquiries revealed the reason was none of the above. Instead, article 75 of the Air Navigation Order had been invoked: "A person shall not enter any aircraft when drunk, or be drunk in any aircraft."

This event took place after Christmas, but I mention it because of what happened at Heathrow last week. The bare bones are contained in a statement from Emirates, about their evening departure to the Gulf:

"Following remarks made as the EK004 prepared to depart London Heathrow for Dubai on the evening of Friday, January 8, crew alerted the Metropolitan Police who subsequently boarded the aircraft and detained three passengers. Two men have been subsequently charged in connection with the incident."

The plane returned to the gate, where the passengers were removed and the plane searched. Because of the delay, the impending midnight curfew at Heathrow and the crew going "out of hours", the flight eventually took off the following afternoon . Many passengers arrived at their destinations 24 hours late.

Given the legal proceedings, I can say little about this specific case, but the two men were both charged with being drunk on an aircraft.

Should anyone who has been drinking heavily be allowed on board a plane? At a disruptive passenger seminar in The Hague (where I was talking about stroppy passengers, rather than acting as one), a story was told about a charter flight from Gatwick in which a clearly drunk passenger was taken aboard the plane in a wheelchair because he was incapable of walking. Probably plenty of fellow passengers found this amusing. And I can see that ground staff would probably prefer to remove a problem from Sussex to Spain rather than tell a drunk he's grounded. But do you really want to be on an aircraft in the company of someone who is unable to understand the safety briefing, let alone play a part in the event of an emergency?

The first line of defence used to be the check-in desk, but in these online days the first contact with an airline employee is often at the gate. Passengers have to put up with quite enough without adding another hurdle in the shape of a breath test at the departure gate, but anyone who seems to have been steadying their nerves too enthusiastically in the bar should be easy to spot. A few stern words may be enough to sober them up. If, instead, it provokes hostility, then they are likely to be a problem on board.

Better still, we could emulate Egyptian airports and serve only "Birell". From a distance, the white, red and gold can resembles Stella Artois. But, like a lager version of a desert mirage, it tantalisingly turns out to be "the original non-alcoholic malt beverage" – which is as little fun as it sounds.

Passport, visa, breathalyser?

When your flight finally departs, go easy. "If you are drunk when you arrive at Luanda airport," warns the Foreign Office advice for Angola, "you may be refused entry, detained and deported".

Better, perhaps, to travel on one of the alcohol-free airlines, such as Kuwait Airways – which offers cheap, dry flights from Heathrow to New York. But John Godfrey reports: "Many years back, I took my own gin on board, and asked for tonic, ice and lemon. The stewardess said they did not sell alcohol but if you brought your own, no problem." Officially, though, booze is banned.

Suggested Topics
News
people And here is why...
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?