August 16, 2018.   Alcohol Aloft.

Have you been following the story about the woman who was jailed for having a glass of wine on an Emirates flight? After arriving in Dubai from London, 44 year-old Ellie Holman admitted to an immigration officer that she’d consumed a complimentary glass of wine during her flight, at which point the officer reminded her that alcohol possession is illegal in the United Arab Emirates. She was arrested and spent three nights in the clink before being released on bail.

Well, that’s the water-cooler version. What really happened is more complicated. The woman tried entering the UAE using an expired Swedish passport, then an Iranian passport. Reportedly she became irate when informed that her stay, per Iranian visa rules, could not exceed 96 hours. She was arrested after pulling out a mobile phone and attempting to film the immigration officer. A UAE government statement says Holman was charged not with alcohol possession, but with using profanity and photographing an official in a restricted area. The charges have since been dropped, however, and the UAE apologized to Holman on behalf of the immigration officer.

The best and most thorough explanation of the affair that I’ve seen is in, of all places, People magazine.* Few other sources, though, have bothered to elaborate. “Woman jailed for drinking on flight” is one of those scandalous little teasers that Americans love to play up and share, regardless of the details.

If people were really be arrested for drinking on flights to Dubai, the airplanes would be empty. Believe me, there’s more liquor on an Emirates 777 or A380 than you’ll find in a distillery. The A380s have an onboard bar, for heck’s sake. Make that two bars: a serve-yourself bulkhead bar at the front of first class, and a lounge in the lobby behind business class, staffed by a bartender. Departing from Dubai, champagne is served prior to pushback — on most carriers, not just Emirates — and the airport’s premium class lounges are home to several bars.


* I need to go easy on People. They once had a picture of me in one of their issues.


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