Update, December 21, 2021: Holiday travel is in full swing this week. That, plus fears around the latest COVID-19 variant, plus this year’s influx in airline passenger misbehavior (see original article below), has some officials calling for a total ban on drinking on airplanes. Not just an airline-specific ban—a total ban.
Yahoo Finance reports that Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey is on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, a committee which recently held a hearing on “Oversight of the U.S. Airline Industry.” There, Markey called for serious alcohol regulation, even suggesting an industry-wide ban.
“There are more than 5,000 incidents already that have been violent in nature on planes, and so many of them are tied to alcohol,” Markey told Yahoo Finance. Markey continued: “Given the level of volatility in the skies that we’re seeing with passengers who are almost ideologically in opposition to any mask mandate, or any control of how people are traveling, leads to inevitably, it’s sad to say, a ban on alcohol as well, until this whole situation is put under control.”
Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, agreed with Markey’s testimony. “The problem with aviation right now is the violence towards flight attendants and other aviation workers that has remained constant at record high levels during the biggest crisis our nation has faced in 100 years,” Nelson said, calling for the elimination of “to-go” drinks served in airports.
If you rely on a little tipple to get through a flight, it might be time to consider alternative coping mechanisms.
Original post, June 2, 2021: A few weeks ago, we reported on United Airlines’ new in-flight drink menu, which includes White Claw spiked seltzer so you can fly the really friendly skies. But now, airlines appear to be experiencing a bit of boozy turbulence, leading some major carriers to discontinue alcohol service until further notice. Food & Wine reports that, as a result of “passengers behaving badly,” both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have decided not to resume alcoholic beverage service during flights.
Some background: just last weekend, a Southwest flight attendant lost two teeth after a passenger punched her in the face, The New York Times reports. The Times also reports that, since January 1, the Federal Aviation Administration has received about 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate.
“Flight attendants are on the front lines every day not only ensuring our customers’ safety, but are also calming fears, answering questions, and enforcing policies like federally-required face masks,” Brady Byrnes, American Airlines managing director of flight service, wrote in a memo to the airline’s flight attendants, according to CNN. “Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft [...] 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.”
With that in mind, Southwest had reversed its decision to resume serving beer and wine on flights to and from Hawaii starting June 24. The airline also planned to resume selling beer, wine, vodka, and whisky on all flights over 251 miles on July 14; those plans have been scrapped for the time being. American has already started serving boozy beverages in its domestic premium cabins, and while first class and business class passengers can still get in-flight alcohol, the main cabin menu will stay dry for now. American says that it will consider resuming alcohol service on Monday, September 13, when the federal face mask mandate is set to expire. For now, please avoid in-flight assholery. I mean, really.