A Woman Was Jailed in Dubai for 3 Days for Drinking a Free Glass of Wine on Her Flight

Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Flying tends to be a less than pleasant experience, so it's understandable that most of us turn to booze to make a long day suck less. A British dentist traveling to Dubai last month participated in this common remedy to the stress of travel, and upon landing was detained for the next three days and may now have to stay for as long as a year. 

That Kent dentist's name is Ellie Holman, and she was traveling from London to Dubai along with her 4-year-old daughter. While alcohol is served on Emirates Airlines -- in Holman's case the wine was even complimentary -- drinking is a serious offense in the United Aired Emirates, as Holman would soon learn.

Upon landing, she was told her that her visa had expired and she would have to board a flight back to England immediately, reports The Sun. Reticent to immediately undergo another international flight with a young child, she pushed back. The officer then asked whether she'd been drinking. 

"Yes, I had a glass of wine on the flight," she responded. "Given to me free by Emirates Airline staff." 

The officer explained that "possession of alcohol is a crime in the UAE, even if it is inside a person’s body." Holman was given a blood test and her BAC was 0.04, far below the legal limit in both the US and the UK.

She then had her passport and phone confiscated and was detained along with her daughter in a cell for the next three days. Her partner flew to the Dubai to retrieve her daughter, but Holman herself reportedly has to stay until her case is processed. It's estimated that that could take as long as a year, and Holman claims that she's spent the equivalent of around $38,000 on legal fees and expenses, and has even had to shutter her practice. 

"The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors," Radha Stirling, chief executive of Detained In Dubai, the organization representing Holman, told The Sun. “It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline. If consumption of alcohol is illegal in the UAE, airlines are complicit in serving alcohol to their passengers and need to be accountable and liable for their actions. I expect that we will soon see airlines being sued for damages and losses incurred by their passengers when they are arrested."

In the meantime, Holman is still undergoing the repercussions. 

h/tThe Sun, Travel & Leisure


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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.