An air stewardess on the Channel 5 documentary ‘First Class vs Economy: Is it worth it?’ claimed altitude can mean alcohol affects you differently. Ex-Coronation Street actors Nigel Havers (Lewis Archer) and Sally Lindsay (Shelley Unwin) spoke to the the BA flight crew to unveil behind-the-scenes secrets of the commercial flying industry. Discussing the issue of drunk people on board planes, Ms Lindsay asked: “Does the cabin pressure – does it make you more inebriated?”
The air stewardess replied: “Absolutely! Because you’re at altitude.
“Alcohol will affect people different at altitude, absolutely.”
Ms Lindsay replied: “That’s what I heard, I didn’t know whether it was a myth or not.”
However, this claim has not been scientifically proven.
In the Thirties, American psychologist RA McFarland found that two to three drinks enjoyed at 10,000-12,000 feet – lower than an airliner tends to fly – is the equivalent of four to five drinks at sea level.
This is because when you drink alcohol, its presence in the bloodstream makes it harder for your body’s haemoglobin to absorb oxygen.
At a higher altitude, it will make it even harder to get enough oxygen, meaning the drinks are even more of a detriment.
However, studies on the effects of altitude and alcohol intake have been conducted on mountaintops, not aircrafts.
In an aeroplane, there is will be stabilised pressure and a cycle of fresh air, so there aren’t the same issues with altitude as when climbing a mountain.
The air stewardess went on to explain to the actors how the cabin crew might respond if someone got drunk and behaved inappropriately.
She said: “If that scenario was to happen in the air our crew are trained with restraint techniques – we have a zero tolerance policy.”
Mr Havers asked whether air crew learn to “sniff out” someone getting on board who has had too much to drink already.
An air steward explained that someone might not be allowed on board if they are already drunk.
He said: “I can actually deal with that sort of situation on the ground, because we don’t really want that kind of behaviour on board.”
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