Proposed Federal Law Calls for Alcohol-Serving Classes for Flight Attendants

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced a bill Monday that would require airline officials to make sure flight and gate attendants take an alcohol-server training class.

If an airline did not comply with the requirement, the airline would face a $25,000-a-day fine, according to a news release from Udall's office.

Federal regulations bar attendants from allowing visibly intoxicated people on board or serving anyone who is visibly intoxicated but need to also require alcohol-server training, Udall said.

"It's simple -- training attendants to identify inebriated passengers either boarding or already on a flight is critical to ensuring they make informed decisions when serving alcohol," Udall said.

While introducing the bill, Udall noted the Nov. 11 drunken-driving crash that killed five members of a Las Vegas, N.M., family on Interstate 25 near Santa Fe.

The crash involved Dana Papst of Tesuque, who police say was drunk when he drove the wrong way down the interstate. Hours before the crash, US Airways personnel had served Papst two individual-sized bottles of whiskey, although witnesses said Papst -- who also died in the crash -- already appeared drunk. After Papst got off the plane at Albuquerque International Sunport, he stopped at a Bernalillo Redi-Mart and bought a six-pack of beer on his way to Santa Fe, investigators said.

Gerald Collins Sr., great uncle of Arissa Garcia, the 15-year-old lone survivor of the crash, said he applauds the bill. "I think (the training) is absolutely necessary if they're going to be serving alcohol," he said. "The training is clearly lacking."

Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said she couldn't name any airlines that don't require alcohol server training in their six-week basic training program, but there could be some that don't.

The association supports measures that would increase training for flight attendants, Caldwell said.

The association, based in Washington, D.C., represents more than 55,000 flight attendants who work at 20 airlines.

Since the end of prohibition in 1933, the U.S. Constitution has left alcohol regulations to state governments. The federal government, however, has jurisdiction over the airlines and airline safety.

All but 13 states require airlines to have liquor licenses, but Alaska is the only state that has a law that requires flight attendants to undergo alcohol-server training. New Mexico requires people who serve alcohol in restaurants and bars, as well as those who sell alcohol in stores, to pass an alcohol-server training class every five years.

After the November crash, Edward Lopez, head of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, said he planned to work with airline officials to make sure airlines flying in and out of New Mexico require their flight attendants to take an alcohol-server training course.

But Udall's bill would make that work on the state level unnecessary.

And Lopez praised Udall's bill Monday.

"I think it's great when a good idea catches on," he said.

Marissa Padilla, a Udall spokeswoman, said the congressman does not expect the bill to be controversial.

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