American Airlines & Southwest Airlines Extend Their Ban On Alcohol Sales Until (At Least) Mid-September

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Two of the largest U.S. carriers – American Airlines and Southwest Airlines – both of which have previously restricted the sale/serving of alcoholic beverages on their flights have announced that these measures will be extended until at least September.

The carriers cite an increased frequency of altercations with unruly passengers during the pandemic as reason to continue not sell any alcohol in economy class for a while (free booze is still being served in First- and Business Class).

Just last week a flight attendant got two teeth knocked out in a fight with an irate passenger and tensions are flying high in times where airlines still expect passengers to follow a number of rules including the wearing of face masks.

Southwest was the first carrier that announced they wouldn’t bring back alcohol sales until a future (unspecified) date.

Southwest Airlines said Friday it will not resume alcohol service as planned after the recent assault on one of its flight attendants, according to an internal memo obtained by CNN.

The airline had planned to resume serving alcohol on some flights starting in June.

On May 23, a Southwest passenger was arrested on suspicion of felony battery causing serious injury after she allegedly struck a flight attendant during a flight from Sacramento to San Diego, according to a statement from the Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department.

“The passenger repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions (tray table in upright position, seat belt, etc.) and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing,” Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Mainz told CNN.

Sonya Lacore, Southwest’s head of in-flight operations, wrote in the memo related to alcohol service that “based on the rise in passenger disruptions in flight, I’ve made the decision to re-evaluate the restart of alcohol service on board.”

Earlier Friday, Southwest said it banned the woman accused of assaulting the flight attendant on Sunday and knocking out two of her teeth.

I don’t read any involvement of alcohol or the reason for the altercation being intoxication. Southwest might just as well have deemed alcohol a contributing factor to inflight assault incidents and therefore decided to continue to ban alcohol sales (liquor minis etc) from their flights.

American Airlines which had early on restricted alcohol on their flights as well and whose “ban” was supposed to run out of Tuesday decided to extend this policy until at least September 14th.

American Airlines is joining Southwest Airlines in holding off on resuming in-flight alcohol sales following an assault against a flight attendant last week.

The moves come as Americans are returning to the skies amid a travel boom as the COVID-19 pandemic eases — and a corresponding spike in unruly behavior by passengers.

American Airlines (AAL) said Saturday in a memo to employees that alcohol sales, which were to resume Tuesday, will remain suspended until at least Sept. 14 — the date the federal face-mask mandate on planes is set to end. Sales of in-flight alcohol were suspended last year in an effort to maintain social distancing on flights.

American’s explanation was similar: “Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft,” Brady Byrnes, American’s managing director of flight service, said in a memo, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews.”

“Every day, we are subjected to verbal and sometimes physical altercations, mainly centered around mask compliance,” Julie Hendrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said in a statement Saturday. “These altercations are often exacerbated when customers have consumed alcohol in the airport or alcohol they have brought onboard. … it is clear that now is not the time to return sales of alcohol.”

The way American approaches this entire matter if totally baffling to me. It’s one thing to ban alcohol from being served to passengers entirely like Southwest does but American continues to serve booze free of charge to First- and Business Class passengers. Just Economy will remain a dry zone.

Is serving alcohol for free and in pretty much unlimited quantities (unless someone becomes obviously drunk and rowdy) to passengers in premium cabins less risky than selling it in coach?

Not selling alcohol is the prerogative of any airline. In the end it’s not part of their complimentary regular inflight service offering and as an ancillary revenue source it can be withdrawn at any time but at least in American’s case it raises eyebrows.

Obviously I’m convinced there would be quite a few travelers who’d bid American goodbye if they’d suddenly cease serving alcohol in Business/First class as long as the competition still keeps pouring.

But is this really a solution to the problem? From what I see and experienced the usual suspects are usually already intoxicated by the time of boarding and rarely does any gate agent or captain decide to not let them fly unless they immediately start a fight of some sort. People don’t suddenly go berserk because they had a double Baileys and why hard alcohol consumption is sometimes a contributing factor maybe policing passengers during boarding is a better, more practical approach. Then again there is no law against being drunk when boarding as long as the behavior isn’t out of control.

Conclusion

Passengers on Southwest Airlines will be experiencing “dry” flights until further notice and American Airlines Economy Class passengers won’t be able to purchase alcoholic beverages until at least September 14, 2021. It’s possible that American will extend this policy once again, nobody knows. This is just the date that the federal “mask mandate” expires which likewise might be extended.

It has always been a controversial subject when “enough is enough” as far as alcohol consumption goes. Practical experience has so far showed me that cabin crew rarely put a stop to excessive alcohol consumption unless there is an incident calling for cutting the passenger off. Especially in Premium Class.

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