Impact of alcohol and reduced cabin pressure on flights?

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.Scott
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Summary:
Should Airline Passengers be warned of the potential combined impact of alcohol and reduced cabin pressure?
In a recent news article, a Frontiers Airline passenger became very unruly after two alcoholic drinks.

On an airline flight, the only ones instructed on the combined effects of alcohol and altitude are the cabin crew. This is what the FAA has to say to them:
Brain effects include impaired reaction time, reasoning, judgment, and memory. Alcohol decreases the ability of the brain to make use of oxygen. This adverse effect can be magnified as a result of simultaneous exposure to altitude, characterized by a decreased partial pressure of oxygen.
Since issues related to alcohol use by the flight crew are well-known and widely appreciated, my concern in this thread is specifically for the passengers. In stark contrast to the crew, passengers often view alcohol as part of their flight survival plan.

Here's an article that provides 11 reasons to not drink on a plane. But note that the first one (compound effects of altitude and alcohol), although it is consistent with the FAA advice above, includes a strong caveat. When it comes to intoxicating effects, there seems to be a major divergence in popular opinion and scientific studies. In contrast, when it comes to the hangover, all agree that the hangover will be worse.

Here's some of what the US CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 14 - 25.841 has to say about cabin pressure:
§ 25.841 Pressurized cabins.
(a) Pressurized cabins and compartments to be occupied must be equipped to provide a cabin pressure altitude of not more than 8,000 feet at the maximum operating altitude of the airplane under normal operating conditions.
(1) If certification for operation above 25,000 feet is requested, the airplane must be designed so that occupants will not be exposed to cabin pressure altitudes in excess of 15,000 feet after any probable failure condition in the pressurization system.
The typical range of pressure altitudes for cruise flights is less than 8,000 feet. For the Boeing 747-400, it has been measured at about 843 hPa (5000 feet), but for most other craft, the value will be at least 6000. Your from/to airport altitudes can also increase this number.

Aggravating the situation is that (as any ear-plugged passenger will tell you) the cabin pressure drops pretty rapidly. A road trip to a mountain cabin might take a few hours to gain 4,000 feet. In a jet - that will happen in a few minutes.

Certainly, a big part of the problem in informing the passengers is that the combined effect of reduced cabin pressure and alcohol isn't well-known. Altitude alone does not change the blood-alcohol content and seems to have a simple "additive" effect on alcohol brain effects. But that study looks at long-duration altitude change - not a climbing jet.

Here's an interesting Washington Post Article. Note the very uncritical inclusion of this quote from a "recently retired airline pilot":
“The gate agents didn’t always notice when a passenger was intoxicated,” Flick says. “Most of the time, the intoxicated passenger just went to sleep as the cabin altitude rose during the flight. But an intoxicated passenger could endanger the safety of others during an emergency.”
So has science missed something? That pilot presumed it is the "cabin altitude" rise. But perhaps the social environment of the airplane cabin is simply less tolerant of intoxication.
 
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BillTre
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Sounds like stupid excuses to me (I have never had this problem).
I say let them get arrested and banned from flying.
Problem solved (eventually).
 
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Interesting, I never really considered it. People have been flying for over a hundred years. You'd think if alcohol and altitude on a flight were serious enough, we'd have detected it by now?
 
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pinball1970
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Summary:: Should Airline Passengers be warned of the potential combined impact of alcohol and reduced cabin pressure?

In a recent news article, a Frontiers Airline passenger became very unruly after two alcoholic drinks.

On an airline flight, the only ones instructed on the combined effects of alcohol and altitude are the cabin crew. This is what the FAA has to say to them:

Since issues related to alcohol use by the flight crew are well-known and widely appreciated, my concern in this thread is specifically for the passengers. In stark contrast to the crew, passengers often view alcohol as part of their flight survival plan.

Here's an article that provides 11 reasons to not drink on a plane. But note that the first one (compound effects of altitude and alcohol), although it is consistent with the FAA advice above, includes a strong caveat. When it comes to intoxicating effects, there seems to be a major divergence in popular opinion and scientific studies. In contrast, when it comes to the hangover, all agree that the hangover will be worse.

Here's some of what the US CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 14 - 25.841 has to say about cabin pressure:

The typical range of pressure altitudes for cruise flights is less than 8,000 feet. For the Boeing 747-400, it has been measured at about 843 hPa (5000 feet), but for most other craft, the value will be at least 6000. Your from/to airport altitudes can also increase this number.

Aggravating the situation is that (as any ear-plugged passenger will tell you) the cabin pressure drops pretty rapidly. A road trip to a mountain cabin might take a few hours to gain 4,000 feet. In a jet - that will happen in a few minutes.

Certainly, a big part of the problem in informing the passengers is that the combined effect of reduced cabin pressure and alcohol isn't well-known. Altitude alone does not change the blood-alcohol content and seems to have a simple "additive" effect on alcohol brain effects. But that study looks at long-duration altitude change - not a climbing jet.

Here's an interesting Washington Post Article. Note the very uncritical inclusion of this quote from a "recently retired airline pilot":

So has science missed something? That pilot presumed it is the "cabin altitude" rise. But perhaps the social environment of the airplane cabin is simply less tolerant of intoxication.
I have a phobia regarding flying and alcohol served as a crutch to get on the plane.
I have never experienced anything other than fuzziness from drinking alcohol on a plane and I always put that down to nervous tension + lack of sleep + alcohol.
I had the horrible experience of flying to Poland with a bunch of England football supporters. I think idiots are just idiots and become more idiotic under the influence.
By contrast Polish football fans under the influence were warm light hearted and welcoming. I am ashamed of my people in certain circumstances.
 
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DaveE
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I think idiots are just idiots and become more idiotic under the influence.
Yes, this. It's why clubs at sea level have bouncers. You just don't read about those idiots in the news.
 
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