Saturday, March 22, 2008

Alcohol or Drugs - Passengers

602.04(3) No operator of an aircraft shall provide or serve any intoxicating liquor to a person on board the aircraft, where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person's faculties are impaired by alcohol or a drug to an extent that may present a hazard to the aircraft or to persons on board the aircraft.

That's the boring stuff. It says that we can't let passengers drink on board if they get loaded enough to be a hazard to themselves or other people on board. That's just common sense.

But what about this - what if a passenger gets loaded on our bar stock and then we arrive at our destination and the passenger has a car? I'm pretty sure I can be held liable, so what are some techniques I can use to defuse this situation?

The layout of our jet is such that our passengers can access food and drinks without any supervision, so we really have no idea who drank what.

Why am I asking this? Well, a couple of weeks ago we did a charter somewhere, taking some banking-type people for a meeting in the morning. A guy on board asked for some Crown Royal whiskey, so we picked up some during the day for the return leg. On the return leg, the flight was about 90 minutes. There were a half-dozen people on board, and after about an hour the volume of conversation and laughter in the back increased significantly.

When we landed, we were greeted by 2 female customs officers. I stood outside the plane while they went in to talk to the pax. I don't know what the passengers were saying to the ladies, but one of the customs officers said "Wow, good thing I grew up with 4 brothers", so I'm sure it was rowdy.

Customs departed, and the passengers stepped out, heading for the FBO. I knew that there was transportation arranged, so I didn't sweat their drunken state. We went back to the plane to clean up, and discovered that between the 6 of them, they had drank an entire 26oz (750ml) bottle of whiskey, 6 beers and about 15 small 'airline'-style liquor bottles. No big deal there either; we factor booze into the cost of our charters, and we have a flushing potty in the back (which they used enthusiastically).

Kitsch and I were discussing the devastation of the interior of our beloved jet, and I said "Yeah, well at least they had limosines to take them home. Right?" Kitsch looked at me in a way that suggested further investigation might be necessary, so I checked the tripsheet.

1 car had been arranged. I can only assume they all took it, but I'd rather not go through that situation again, nor have to make that assumption.

Am I liable if a drunk pax decides to drive home after we land? (likely)
Does this happen to other charter operators? (likely)
What do they do about it? I don't want to get sued and end up having my wages garnished to pay some huge judgement because I let a millionaire drink himself over 0.08 and then wrap his BMW around a lamppost on the way home.


Tim Perkins said...

Interesting questions.

In retrospect, how would you change the parameters of that flight? Limit the alcohol? Warn the passengers? Send Kitsch back there?

medic_9 said...

"The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in Childs v. Desormeaux that hosts who serve alcoholic beverages at private parties are not liable (absent extenuating circumstances) for damages caused by intoxicated guests who cause motor vehicle accidents following the party."

Here are the links:

So now you just have to figure out if you are a "social host" or an "establishment" like a bar. The former you aren't liable, as the link above shows a precedent has been set. The latter you would be held liable.

medic_9 said...

Here's a good quote:
"A person who accepts an invitation to attend a private party does not park his autonomy at the door. The guest remains responsible for his or her conduct."

James said...

I'd have to argue that in this situation, Sulako's Charter company is closer to a commercial host (like a bar) than social host in Childs v. Desormeaux, but it's not cut and dry.

In the Childs case, the court outlines some of the differences between the two. Plus, one of the other big factors in that case was that the guests brought their own alcohol to the party - here, the alcohol is provided by the charter operator.

There is also the messy question of whether you'd be held personally liable or if you were simply acting as an agent for your company.

To protect your butt, it might not be a bad idea to be a little more proactive with ensuring that your paxs don't drive their own vehicles home. Mind you, if they can be affording to charter a biz jet, they should have developed the common sense to know when they're able to drive home. Unfortuantely, that's not always the case.

Anonymous said...

I'd assume that the "deep pockets" theory applies up in the Great White North, as it does here in the US. If so, I'd wager that Sulako's employer has deeper pockets than Sulako himself. That being the case, I'd assume his employer has the liability. Lack of (written) company policies/procedures regarding serving alcohol should, I assume, place more liablity on Sulako's employer.

Good luck,

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

The deep pockets theory does tend to occur in Canada. However, Ontario has fairly tight rules regarding 'discovery' (essentially indepth interviews regarding the facts under oath), therefore, even though it would likely be Sulako's employer on the hook for the damages, a plaintiff might still add Sulako to the lawsuit so that he would be fair game to discover.

There are fair more complicated issues there that I'm not totally clear about. But still, even if he didn't get sued, it would be one giant headache

Anonymous said...

As long as they are all of age, it is the same as going into a bar. It is the drinker's responsibility to decide whether they are able to drive. You have no control over whether they drive or not if intoxicated.


Anonymous said...

I've been mulling this over for a few days and found myself getting more and more tangled in the details. I have to be brief here but will try to return with more/better comments.

I would agree with James that you are probably considered a commercial host, rather than a private party. You might need to add a rider to your contract stipulating that the wet-bar is provided as a courtesy but that you have no control over individual service. Therefore you are not responsible for guests after they leave the immediate aircraft area. Also, I would probably recommend sticking with the aircraft (small) bottles and avoid purchasing larger bottles to limit consumption.

In the end, if someone looks visibly intoxicated you should do your best to get them a ride home. Otherwise there's really not much you can do outside of prohibiting alcohol altogether.