Is alcohol banned on flights again? It depends on who you fly with for your business travel this summer.
American Airlines, Southwest ban alcohol — for now
American Airlines sent a memo to flight attendants ensuring the safety of its cabin crew in late May, according to CNN. The move will extend the airline’s suspended sentence on alcohol through September 13, which is the date when the mask mandate for all planes is lifted by the Transportation Security Administration.
The mandate was initially supposed to end in early May, but TSA extended the mask requirements on all travelers in airports, airlines, terminals, trains, buses, and boats.
“While we appreciate that customers and crewmembers are eager to return to “normal,” we will move cautiously and deliberately when restoring pre-COVID practices,” Brady Byrnes, managing director of flight service at American Airlines, said in the memo obtained by CNN.
“We also recognize that alcohol can contribute to atypical behavior from customers onboard and we owe it to our crew not to potentially exacerbate what can already be a new and stressful situation for our customers,” she said.
American Airlines halted alcohol sales at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 in order to limit interaction between crew and passengers on flights. It was designed to keep both parties safe, but recent passenger unrest has extended the ban past the summer months, where air travel is anticipated to pick up.
Why is alcohol banned on flights right now?
Internet culture shows endless fascination when people freak out in public. There’s even an entire subreddit dedicated to people losing it in public, and often those instances happen on airplanes.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in May that the agency has received approximately 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers since the beginning of this year, including around 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the mask-wearing mandate.
Southwest Airlines, in particular, has seen an uptick in misbehavior by passengers in recent months. A union rep said that 477 passenger misconduct incidents happened on Southwest flights alone between April 8 and May 15, with the latest being the most disturbing — which resulted in the alcohol ban.
Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, faces a felony charge of battery causing serious bodily injury, for allegedly striking a flight attendant during a flight from Sacramento to San Diego, according to Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department.
Reports said Quinonez, who was arrested on May 23, was approached by the flight attendant after her family had not been wearing masks. The Southwest Airlines passenger allegedly struck the flight attendant, knocking out two of her teeth.
A Southwest Airlines spokesperson told CNN that the passenger also ignored inflight instructions, such as tray table positions and seat belt instructions.
Southwest Airlines had begun preparing to start selling alcoholic beverages on flights on its flights in June and July, but the recent altercation and other incidents has the airline thinking otherwise.
“Given the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions in-flight, we have made the decision to pause the previously announced restart of alcohol service onboard,” Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz told USA TODAY. “We realize this decision may be disappointing for some customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the safety and comfort of all customers and crew on board.”
Some airlines do serve drinks
Currently, United Airlines is offering customers on most flights over two hours the ability to purchase beer, wine, and even White Claw Hard Seltzer. Delta Air Lines brought back wine, beer, and canned cocktail purchases on April 14.