Man Arrested For Driving After Drinking On A US Airways Flight

We need to figure out how to make airports more entertaining. After drinking at Phoenix International Airport and again on his US Airways flight, Ernest Wright, 49, of Albuquerque, got in his car and drove away. He was arrested with a blood alcohol level of .16 and charged with aggravated DWI. (We suppose he told himself, “If it’s good enough for CEO Doug “Dear Jerry, I’m Taking Your Airline” Parker, it’s good enough for me!”)

So you’re asking yourself, why is this news? Back in November, another drunk passenger from a US Airways flight drove after being over served on that airline and killed 5 members of a Las Vegas family when he “drove the wrong way on Interstate 25.” It was later found that US Airways did not have a valid liquor license.

The airline has since applied for a temporary license and are serving alcohol while they wait for approval in New Mexico.

Remember to watch how much you have to drink when traveling. It’s long. It’s boring. There’s no food. Don’t get to a place where you can’t drive yourself home. The report said the driver in question had been served two small bottles of whiskey on top of whatever he’d had at the airport. If you’re going to drive home, perhaps that’s a bit too much. —MEGHANN MARCO

Police: Drunken driver served on flight [The New Mexican]
(Photo: JohnKit)


Edit Your Comment

  1. datruesurfer says:

    They should do somthing similar to how they serve liquor at baseball games: No service after the 7th inning. The airline could say no alcohol on the second half of the flight, or not at all on shorter flights.

  2. Buran says:

    And this is the airline’s fault why? He was of legal drinking age. Do we blame alcohol store clerks for what people do with what they buy? If I buy booze, then later go out and do something stupid, how is that the store’s fault?

    While I agree that airlines suck and aren’t worthy of our business anymore, needless bashing just looks bad.

  3. SaveMeJeebus says:

    The airline would be acting as a bar rather than a liqour store. I would guess that the attendants lack proper training/experience in dealing with overserved patrons and just keep the glasses full for five bucks a shot. Real bars that charge for liquor have a reasonable duty of care to its patrons and shouldn’t serve once they are visibly drunk nor should they promote excessive drinking. This should go double for airlines.

  4. mmcnary says:

    I tend to lean toward the personal responsibility side of this debate. Adults are supposed to know how much is too much.

  5. roche says:

    Once again personal responsibility surrenders……

    It clearly was not this guys fault. It was those nasty bars at the airport that held him down and forced all of those drinks down his throat. Once he got on the plane those bastards did the same thing. They strapped him into his seat and poured shot after shot into him as he resisted.

    After all of that, they had the nerve to take him and force him into his car at gunpoint. The guy CLEARLY had no other option but to drive away drunk.

  6. martyz says:

    What exactly is ‘aggravated DWI’? Is that just a ‘meaner’ form of DWI? Was he ANGRY and driving while intoxicated? And while I’m here, what’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI??

  7. DashTheHand says:

    How exactly do you get THAT intoxicated on a flight? Are the stewards that much of idiots or did he hook up an IV to pump the liquor directly into his blood stream?

  8. Bay State Darren says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: attendants lack proper training/experience in dealing with overserved patrons
    But consider how much training they do have: emergency medical procedures, dealing with terro threats, etc. It wouldn’t be too much to add to it the ability to spot passengers who’ve had too much and cutting them off.

  9. Hawkeye1659 says:

    Yeah you’d have to try real hard to get that drunk just on a flight. He had to have been at an airport bar beforehand and maybe gotten a couple of drinks on the flight to keep himself that drunk. Even on 2+ hour flights it is a stretch to get over 3 drinks.

  10. Hoss says:

    Phoenix to Albuquerque sounds like the kind of flight where the cart goes by once. He must have stopped at bar when departing his flight?

    Anyway, no more flight rules please!

  11. Kos says:

    Holding bars responsible for the alcohol they serve their customers is known as dram shop liability. See

    I’m assuming that if an airline lands in State A and serves alcohol at all on the flight, then it is subject to State A’s dram shop laws.


  12. Kornkob says:

    @martyz: The difference is merely a legal technicality: in some states they call it Driving While Intoxicated in other states they call it Driving Under the Influence. There is no practical difference for the purposes of this discussion.

    What is ‘aggravated’? Often states will designate a certain level of intoxication to be especially heinous and call that ‘aggravated’. In this case, odds are he was double the legal limit and thus qualified for aggravated. This allows some discretion in nailing someone who was a little over the limit differently than someone who was way over.

    Legally speaking ‘aggravated’ has nothing to do with being angry.

    All that being said, 1.6 is not that much for an experienced drinker. Still shouldn’t have been driving– that’s not what I’m suggesting. However, expecting one of the cabin crew to be able to detect someone at 1.6 as ‘drunk’ is not reasonable.

  13. joeblevins says:

    Stewardess training consists mainly of waitressing abilities. Heck, mostly just bussing. Delivering drinks and picking up trash. On newer planes they don’t even have to do the pre-flight entertainment, now they just turn on a video.

    Hell, in the old days they used to be actual RN’s. Now they are just wasteoids that can’t get another job, or just don’t want the pressure of a real job. But they do get cheap travel for themselves and family.

  14. ideagirl says:

    Someone was served more than one drink on a US Airways flight? I can’t even get those people to bring me a second bloody mary on a five hour flight, much less enough liquor to get drunk.

  15. mrestko says:

    Craziness! If you’re of-age, you should be responsible for your own behavior. Personally, I’d love to see the penalties for first-time DUI/DWI increase, I think it’s a despicable crime and the fault should lie wholly with the driver.

  16. @Buran: “And this is the airline’s fault why?”

    Because bars have a responsibility to stop serving drunks. Why is the patron not personally responsible? Because a primary feature of drunkenness is the INABILITY TO MAKE RATIONAL CHOICES.

    Once someone is drunk, they have ceased to be capable of taking personal responsibility for their actions because they are no longer rational. (For example, intoxicated persons are not legally capable of giving informed consent for medical procedures in most circumstances.) Of couse we demand they LEGALLY take responsibility for actions committed while drunk (such as killing someone DWI), but if you think drunks are capable of making rational adult decisions, I’m not sure you understand what “drunk” means.

  17. J.T Dabbagian says:

    So what? Is the moron going to sue US Airways? That would seal it all up.

  18. enm4r says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: If someone is sitting down and simply drinking/keeping to himself, .16 would not necessarily appear drunk. Certainly not over the top visibly intoxicated. While I agree, that airlines should not serve visibly drunk individuals, holding them to a ridiculous standard is…well…ridiculous.

    Also, the patron is always responsible, drunk or not they never give up their personal responsibility.

  19. @enm4r: I generally agree, but that’s the rationale behind the “dram shop” laws. I think what we’re actually holding the drinker responsible for is the original decision to drink, and to do so in such a situation where he knows he might end up driving.

    And it IS frequently difficult for a bar to tell when someone is too drunk to drive or too drunk to keep being served (which is why generally prosecutors don’t prosecute on them unless it’s really, really egregious). But once drunk, our laws generally state drunks cannot make rational decisions. So while they’re “responsible” in a cosmic sense (again, for the decision to start in the first place, really), we recognize as a society that at a certain point, drunks cease being able to make decisions, and we put the onus for their decisions on other people — maybe on the ER staff in making treatment decisions for an emergent patient who cannot give informed consent, maybe on the bartender to stop serving someone he knows is going to drive, etc.

  20. roamer1 says:

    The incidents involving US Airways have affected at least one other airline — Frontier doesn’t serve alcohol on flights to or from NM because of the state’s requirement that airlines have NM liquor licenses. (Apparently the first US Airways incident led to the state investigating other airlines and finding Frontier didn’t have one; Frontier is rather unhappy about it and says they shouldn’t need one.)

  21. dohtem says:

    Speaking of getting sloshed in airports. MSP International is my favorite.

    P.S. The guy at the bar on concourse G really makes stiff Jack and cokes.

  22. Kornkob says:

    @roamer1: I’m having a hard time calling that US Airway’s fault. If someone is doing business in a state without the proper licenses that’s on them, regardless whatever company ’caused’ them to get caught.

    US Airways didn’t affect Frontier. Frontier got caught by AZ doing business without all the appropriate licenses. If they hand’t been operating in violation they wouldn’t get caught.

  23. swalve says:

    .16 isn’t *that* drunk.

  24. Bay State Darren says:

    I say they have the same liability for saucing him up and releasing him upon the world where he pulls a dewey (New Englandese for DUI), they should have he same liability as a bar that does the same. “We’re a giant airline with really expensive lawyers so we’re better.” doesn’t cover it.

  25. yg17 says:

    They could’ve done something. I was waiting for my American Airlines flight back to STL at LaGuardia, and the plane we were going on had just arrived to the gate from Miami (2 hours late, but I digress). As soon as it stopped at the gate, 3 cop cars arrived at the plane’s rear exit and hauled off a few passengers. The flight attendants told us they were drunk. I don’t know whether or not they were acting belligerent or how they got the alcohol (this was before the no liquids crap so it could’ve been their own), but the fact of the matter is that they were clearly intoxicated. The flight crew realized that these people may drive as soon as they got off the plane and made it a point to make sure that didn’t happen.

    Is this entirely US Airways fault? No, but could they have done something to make sure this guy didn’t drive? Certainly.