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U.S. airlines urged to restrict liquor

Congress may set a 2-drink limit to help ease air rage

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WASHINGTON — U.S. airlines need to restrict alcohol on domestic flights to stem "air rage" incidents or Congress may institute a two-drink limit, a U.S. senator said.

A restriction will help stem assaults, threats or interference with plane crews by passengers, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein said. "It is time for the airline industry to set standards voluntarily or else Congress may well step in," she wrote in a letter to chief executives at AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and five other carriers.

Flight attendants are urging airlines and the government to require training for employees and mandatory reporting of the incidents. Feinstein's suggestion is "poor public policy" that would penalize millions passengers because of the unruly few, said Michael Wascom, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, an airline industry trade group.

Fewer than 10 percent of the 4,000 incidents of misbehavior each year violate federal law, and most of the bad behavior is caused by delayed and canceled flights, not alcohol, he said.

Feinstein also sent the letter to executives at Delta Air Lines Inc., Northwest Airlines Corp., Continental Airlines Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.

Flight attendants oppose a two-drink limit because it would be too difficult to enforce and may encourage drinking before passengers board airplanes, said Dawn Deeks, a spokeswoman for the Association of flight Attendants, which represents more than 50,000 flight attendants at 29 airlines.

The union wants airlines to be less aggressive in serving alcohol, such as not serving drinks before take-off, offering one drink at a time and not handing out free drinks as compensation for flight delays or cancellations, Deeks said.