They are going abroad on holiday so they buy alcohol in the duty free shop at the airport and, although it is forbidden, they start drinking it before they board their plane.
By the time their aircraft is in the air, they have lost all inhibitions.
Film from passengers’ mobile phones relayed on television news programmes last week showed travellers fighting in airplane gangways, standing on their seats, singing and waving bottles and glasses.
At the terminal, a woman tripped over her bottle-laden trolley and a man lay asleep on the luggage carousell.
The films illustrated a BBC report that arrests of drunken air passengers have risen by 50 per cent in one year.
A total of 387 people were arrested in 12 months up to February this year compared to 255 the previous year.
Ally Murphy, a cabin crew manager with Virgin who quit her job last October after 14 years, told the Panorama programme: “People just see us as barmaids in the sky.”
She added: “They would touch your breasts or your bum or your legs. I’ve had hands going up my skirt before.”
More than half of cabin crew who responded to a survey said they had witnessed disruptive drunken passenger behaviour and one in five said they had suffered physical abuse.
A code of conduct that most big airlines signed up to asks sellers to warn passengers not to consume duty-free purchases on the plane and advises airline staff not to sell alcohol to passengers who appear drunk.
Now the airlines are asking the government to amend the law to make consumption of a passenger’s own alcohol on board an aircraft a criminal offence.
Licensing laws, which prevent the sale of alcohol outside permitted hours, do not apply to airside sales of alcohol at UK international airports.
Bars can remain open to serve passengers on the earliest and latest flights, from 4am in some cases.
Back in 2006, James Ward was serving a one-year sentence for arson when he set fire to the mattress in his prison cell.
As a result, he was given a sentence of 10 months. Eleven years later, he is still in prison.
This happened because the 10-month term was an IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) ruling, a form of indeterminate sentence introduced in 2005.
It was intended to protect the public against criminals whose deeds were not serious enough to merit a normal life sentence but who were regarded as too dangerous to be released when the term of their original sentence — 10 months in Ward’s case — had expired.
The sentence lasts until the Parole Board judges the prisoner is no longer dangerous.
IPP sentences were abolished in 2012 and the reason Ward is still in jail is he regularly self-harms and the authorities are concerned for his safety.
His family fear he will take his life if he remains inside.
The BBC revealed last week there are more than 3,000 people still serving these sentences.
The Ministry of Justice says it is working closely with the Parole Board to process the cases as quickly as possible. Meanwhile James Ward remains inside.
A word of thanks to the many readers who emailed how they missed my column on August 6 and sent best wishes for my recovery.
I am not ready to run marathons yet but the strength is slowly returning.
It will not have escaped sports lovers’ attention that the new football season is under way, heralding the inevitable rivalry between neighbours and opponents such as Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers in Scotland, north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and in the northeast, Newcastle United and Sunderland.
A couple of stories to illustrate:
Whenever a Celtic fan saw supporters in the blue shirts of Glasgow Rangers, he would scare them by driving his van at them, then swerving away at the last moment.
One day, after giving a lift to a priest who was heading to a church down the road, he saw a Rangers fan in the hated blue shirt.
He did his usual swerve and though he was sure he missed him, he heard a loud thud.
“Sorry, Father,” he said to the priest, “I almost hit that Rangers fan.” That’s all right,” the priest said, “I got him with the door.”
A teacher asked how many in her primary class were supporters of Sunderland.
Everyone raised their hands except Mary, who declared that she was a Newcastle supporter.
“My mum and dad are Newcastle fans, so I am, too,” she said.
The teacher said that was a silly reason.
“What if your mum was a moron and your dad was a moron, what would you be then?”
A smile from Mary: “I’d be a Sunderland supporter.”