Delta Airlines look set to start offering cheap flights with free booze from Sydney to LA, starting next month. And I, for one, won’t be booking them.
Yes, you read that right. The permanently broke Irish backpacker turned Aussie, whose travel and beer spend monthly is higher than her horribly expensive Sydney rent, won’t be booking or even looking at them.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of my fondest, and fuzziest, memories involve free bars. There is a place for free alcohol in both my heart and real life. I just don’t think that place is on a metal tube packed with three hundred people and only three bathrooms, whizzing through the air at 600mph.
That’s over 900 kilometres an hour, for those of you too drunk to convert. The reason that you are so drunk is that the cabin pressure affects how your body deals with oxygen, meaning that a small beer can affect you like a very large one.
While getting extra drunk on less might seem great, you’re getting something else for free too. You can also look forward to a mother of all hangovers after the flight. Dehydration from alcohol is bad enough when you are on the ground, where a typical comfortable humidity level is over 35%. Relative humidity is 20-25% in the Sahara deserts, which seems dry until you realise long haul high-altitude flights average around 10%.
You’re probably already mildly dopey from the cabin pressure and losing water fast. There’s not a moisturiser in the world that can handle that and half a bottle of vodka to “take the edge off”.
If you need to take the edge off, you should probably look at options other than alcohol which, in addition to being a depressant, also increases anxiety and the chance of panic attacks. But there’s not much point you sticking on your headphones and trying to relax when the bloke next to you is on his fifth beer and trying to either pick a fight or pull the hostie.
There is nothing wrong with a little alcohol applied to the correct point. Friday night dancing, lunch in a sunny beer garden, relaxing in the bath after a long day – all these cry out for a glass of your favourite tipple.
But strapped into your seat in a row, surrounded by silent strangers, and with nothing to distract you but the in-flight magazine, it’s not much fun. What is normally a relaxing and social experience becomes solitary and oddly creepy. It’s like something out of 1984.
“When the flight is underway and the seatbelt light blinks off, it is Compulsory Fun Time for you, citizen. Open your drink, place in the provided glass. Drink your drink. Do not move from your seat unless you wish to use the bathroom. Do not have more than the prescribed amount of fun. When the seatbelt light goes on, return to your seat. All fun must cease as we approach landing. I repeat, all fun MUST cease.”
Not to mention the fact that if someone decides to get drunk and rowdy, you are stuck with them until the flight lands. It is apparently considered bad form to ask the bouncers to chuck them out at 40,000 feet. This is what you have to look forward too on your flight, being stuck with every idiot who equates flying to LA with a fourteen hour booze cruise.
Unlike a pub, here people can vomit into bags while remaining in the seat next to you, and that’s fine.
And unlike the pub, you can’t just leave when you want to get away. When some guy from business class starts hitting on you talking about his “extra legroom” or a smashed cougar keeps leaving the bathroom door open and winking, you’re stuck there. Passing out drunk would seem like a great option, but there’s ten people queuing for the bathroom and you think you can hear someone either having sex or vomiting in there.
Stressed staff, terrible dull decor, dehydration, people sweating booze and swearing, children kicking your seat and the chorus of wailing babies – you might as well go drinking in A&E.
I like a drink, but fourteen hours on a plane recreating a hospital ward or police waiting room at 2am on Saturday morning doesn’t sound like fun. Which is why, while I am delighted Delta are offering, I won’t be taking the cut price dipsomaniac deal to California.
I’ll be flying one of the other airlines and enjoying the savings. Competition from Delta will bring down the price of flights, and Delta’s flights will take the passengers I hate to travel with off my hands. I can get to LA, on the cheap, and arrive fresh and ready to enjoy my holiday.
I’ll drink to that. And I’ll happily pay for that drink too.