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10 Reasons Not to Drink and Fly

From "Duct Tape Man" to Gerard Depardieu, the booze 'n' planes combo has proved its potency many times over. The Fix presents a cabinful of mile-high horror stories.

  • Duct Tape Man

    The baying mob's thirst for vigilante justice was recently catered to by a viral photo of a drunken, obnoxious Iceland Air passenger bound to his seat and gagged with duct tape. Apparently Duct Tape Man, having downed a bottle of 27% licorice-flavored duty-free vodka, started spitting on and groping people around him, screaming to one woman that the plane was going to crash, and choking another passenger. His fellow flyers' patience soon ran out. Thanks to a combination of zip ties and green duct tape—even applied directly over his mouth—Duct Tape Man felt the brunt of years of frustration at journeys marred by other people's boozing.

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  • Mr. Moneybags

    Drunken businessman Leon Quarless played boozy benefactor after he staggered onto a plane with a bag full of Euros. He started passing out €50 notes ($64) to his fellow passengers, but they chivalrously took note of his inebriation and refused the proffered cash. With the fury of a drunkard scorned, Quarless threw a fit on the plane. After landing, police arrested him in the departure lounge, where he proceeded to destroy his phone and eat the SIM card.

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  • The Soap Swallower

    At first, artist Galina Rusanova seemed merely like your typical airplane drunk, stumbling to her seat, kicking the seat in front of her and passing out. A while later she awoke and began roaming around, speaking incoherently. An airline attendant then watched as Rusanova snatched a bottle of liquid soap from the bathroom and downed it—as heavy drinkers in Eastern Europe sometimes do, because soaps and perfumes contain small quantities of alcohol. At this point, cabin crew decided to handcuff her to her seat—but not before she got a few licks in and snapped her teeth “like a dog.” FBI questioners later found out that she was on the flight from London to Maine to hook up with someone she'd met online. She'd had some wine and sleeping pills to soothe her flying anxiety. “It's typical of me," said Rusanova. "I sometimes do crazy things.”

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  • Gerard Depardieu

    Prior to Duct Tape Man, the airline scandal everyone was talking about was that of French screen icon Gerard Depardieu. Before takeoff, Depardieu shot up out of his seat and exclaimed in French, “I need to piss! I need to piss!” Told he couldn't use the bathroom until 15 minutes after takeoff, he took a water bottle from a friend and made a splashy attempt at urinating inside it. The plane was grounded, the media went nuts and Anderson Cooper couldn't stop laughing. Despite a reputation as a bon vivant, and a record that includes a recent skipped DUI hearing, Depardieu insisted that “stone-cold sober” prostate-induced desperation was to blame, not wine.

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  • The Slap-Happy Litigator

    After downing multiple glasses of Burgundy at 20-minute intervals, Japanese businessman Yoichi Shimamoto simply couldn't resist slapping his wife six times while they passed through customs in Florida. But according to Shimamoto and—oddly enough—his wife, the airline was to blame. Because United Airlines served him so much wine that “he could not manage himself,” he sued them for the $100,000 defense tab for his domestic violence charges. The couple dropped their lawsuit the following month.

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  • The Abominable Snow Man

    One teenage skier outdid Depardieu but saw his dreams trickle away when—five or six beers and two rum-and-colas into a flight—he found himself peeing on a sleeping 11-year-old girl. When the girl's father returned from his own trip to the bathroom and saw Robert Vietze, a 6'4”, 195-pound Olympic hopeful, letting loose on his daughter's seat, he understandably lost it. "I woke up to this man yelling and literally looking like he was about to punch this kid in the face," said a witness. "I was drunk, and I did not realize I was pissing on her leg," 18-year-old Vietze later told law enforcement. To be fair, he didn't quite pee on the girl—his lawyer later clarified that he missed. But Vietze was still kicked out of the US Ski Team's development squad.

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  • REM's Yogurt Detonator

    When REM guitarist Peter Buck was refused a 16th drink during a flight to London, he became, in his words, a “non-insane automaton.” During a confrontation with crew members, Buck managed to make a yogurt container explode all over the the director of cabin services and a flight attendant. He then wrestled with another attendant while trying to pry open the cabin door, saying he was “going home.” At some point, he sat next to a woman and claimed she was his wife before flipping a breakfast cart. A witness said that while helping to clean up the mess he caused, Buck tried to slip a knife up his sleeve. In court, none other than Bono testified that the incident was an anomaly, as Buck was “famously peaceful.” Buck blamed a sleeping pill that he took before his drinks.

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  • The Glass-Shard Slasher

    After being cut off from the booze, American businessman Tim Bradley began stomping around the cabin, threatening crew members and fellow passengers. “His swearing got louder and he was swearing at the manager of the crew. He pushed him in the galley and wanted to know why he was refused more wine,” recalled a witness. “At one stage I could see him holding a broken glass, ready to attack the crew and talking to himself.” Still clutching the shard, he returned to his seat. “He was saying to people around him, ‘Why have I fucking been picked? I’ll stab the pilots if they want,'” said his seatmate. “I and many other passengers were petrified.” After landing at Heathrow, Bradley was charged with being drunk on an aircraft and common assault.

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  • The Flight Simulator Simulator

    An entire planeload was scared out of its mind when an unnamed 22-year-old man began trying to pull open the cabin door at 36,000 feet. “His friends tried to pull him away from the door and he started punching them and saying, 'It's OK we are just on a simulator.' He was off his head,” one passenger recalled. “Then this other guy came from nowhere and smacked him in the head.” People screamed, children cried and the plane shook. It took the cabin crew and several passengers to get the man into a seat where they restrained him with no fewer than eight seat belts. Six officers detained him after an emergency landing.

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  • The 50-Day Drunk

    Anatoliy Baranovich's seatmate was rudely awakened when Barnovich began screaming to him in Russian that their Boeing 757's wing was on fire. He didn't understand Russian, but Baranovich's actions spoke loud and clear when he tried to rip open two doors while the plane was still moving after it landed. Attempts by several passengers to subdue Baranovich failed, but fortunately a former police officer pulled off a wrist lock that forced the drunk to the floor. Though a translator, Baranovich said he'd been trying to build a house in Ukraine—but instead got drunk and stayed that way for the 50 days prior to his flight. During his frenzy, he even managed to damage the plane's fuselage; he was charged with that, along with assault.

    Bryan Le is a Staff Writer for The Fix.

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By Bryan Le 01/17/13

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