American Airlines has become the second U.S. carrier in the last two days to delay the return of in-flight alcohol citing unprecedented levels of unruly passenger behavior for the decision. On Friday, Southwest Airlines confirmed it would no longer bring back alcohol on its flights from June 24 as originally planned after one of its flight attendants was viciously assaulted.
In an internal memo sent to flight attendants, American Airlines said alcohol would not make a return to the main cabin on domestic flights until September 13 at the earliest – the current date that the Biden-era federal face mask mandate is set to expire, USA Today reports.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been deluged with unruly passenger behavior reports from airlines over the last five months. Of the more than 2,500 reports received by the FAA, around 76 per cent relate to passengers who failed to comply with the mask mandate.
Flight attendant unions at both American and United have expressed their displeasure at plans to reintroduce inflight alcohol service while trying to enforce face mask rules. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) fears alcohol will only make disruptive passenger incidents even worse than they already are.
Lyn Montgomery, president of the Southwest flight attendants union warned that “the attitudes and behaviors of the flying public have, unfortunately, declined,” in a recent letter to the airline’s chief executive.
“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,” the internal memo from American’s vice president of flight service, Brady Byrnes noted.
“Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft. Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews,” the memo continues.
“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.”
“While we appreciate that customers and crewmembers are eager to return to ‘normal,’ we will move cautiously and deliberately when restoring pre-COVID practices,” the memo continued.
Alcohol sales were suspended last March at the outset of the pandemic but in recent weeks airlines have been eager to bring back pre-COVID levels of service. Delta brought back alcohol last month, while Alaska resumed onboard alcohol sales earlier this month.
United Airlines still intends to resume beer, wine and even White Claw hard seltzer sales starting June 1.
American has already started serving alcohol in its domestic First Class cabin and this will continue, although pre-departure beverages won’t make a return just yet.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.