Turkish airline, wary of unruly passengers, may ban alcohol on flights from Russia


A Turkish Airlines flight takes off from Berlin. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Istanbul-based Turkish Airlines is considering a move to prohibit alcohol on its flights to and from Russia, according to a story in the Russian newspaper Izvestia, also picked up by EurasiaNet's Yigal Schleifer. Turkey is a popular destination for Russian tourists.

The proposed ban comes after a string of incidents involving Russian passengers who had too much to drink and became unruly. Last year alone, 28 such incidents on Turkish Airlines flights between Turkey and Russia required police intervention. Earlier this month, an audibly drunk Russian man on a Turkish Airlines flight got into a confrontation with several members of a Russian soccer team who were also the flight. A cell phone video of the altercation shows the men wrestling in the aisle.

Russia's famous drinking culture is not a myth. Alcohol consumption rates in Russia are among the highest in the world.

Owing to its apparent role in the country's public health crisis of the 1990s, Russian alcohol consumption habits are also unusually well-studied. A 2002 article in the American Journal of Public Health noted, "Some researchers have suggested that it is the nature of alcohol consumption in Russia -- a large proportion of alcohol is consumed in the form of distilled spirits (mainly vodka) and drunk in binges, often in unregulated settings -- that is responsible for alcohol’s unique impact on the incidence of various types of alcohol-related mortality (e.g., alcohol poisoning) and violence."

Of course, Russia is a big and diverse country of 143 million people. It would not be fair or accurate to judge an entire nation based on a few dozen misbehaving tourists, any more than it would be appropriate to blame the entire United States for a few wild American spring breakers in Tijuana. And Turkish Airlines has actually banned alcohol on other routes, for example on flights to Saudi Arabia, although presumably this is because alcohol is illegal in that country. Fair or not, vacationers flying from Moscow to Istanbul may have to wait until they arrive at baggage claim to start drinking.

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Max Fisher · April 29, 2013