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TO DRINK OR NOT TO DRINK IN FLIGHT?

To drink or not to drink in flight?Flying for business or pleasure is second nature for many travellers today. But no matter how seasoned the traveller, there’s no denying that little twinge of fear when you hear the crew’s announcement to fasten seatbelts and return to your seats as the pilot prepares to navigate through turbulent conditions.

For some fliers, the landing is worse than the take-off, as you wait to hear the landing gear release in preparation for touchdown or experience a thumping reconnection with the earth as the aircraft finds the runway with more energy than you might think is ideal.

To settle frayed tempers or soothe preflight nerves, there are those who might take a drink or two before boarding and continue to do so to help them unwind once airborne. This is not a good idea for several reasons. The crew is trained to assess travellers as they board – their responsibility is passenger safety and anyone who overindulges to the extent that their behaviour threatens the safety of aircraft and passengers risks facing legal consequences.

The advice to go easy when it comes to drinking alcohol on a flight is not just about safety though. It’s about health and wellbeing. Some people will simply feel worse after drinking alcohol airside – drink lots of water if you’re going to do it. It’s important to stay hydrated.

While some believe that the effect of alcohol is more dramatic at altitude, others such as the US Federal Aviation Administration refute the argument. This was after they ran an experiment in which 17 men were asked to complete certain tasks after drinking vodka on the ground and then in a chamber designed to simulate a height of 3,7km. The results? "No interactive effect of alcohol and altitude on either breathalyser readings or performance scores," notes the economictimes.indiatimes.com.

And if you’re one of those travellers who think you get drunk faster on a plane, you could simply be experiencing what the late addiction scientist, Alan Marlatt, termed the “think-drink” effect. His research in this field proved that how people think about alcohol affects their behaviour as much as consuming the drink itself.

Meanwhile, a bbc.com article quotes Dave Hanson, a professor at the State University of New York at Potsdam who has researched alcohol and drinking for over 40 years, and believes that “getting drunk faster while flying is a myth”. The article states that altitude sickness could mimic a hangover, but it could equally mimic intoxication. "If people aren't adequately pressurised, they can feel intoxicated," said Hanson.

At the end of the day, as with most things in life, the best advice is “everything in moderation”.