Southwest Airlines is extending its pandemic-induced alcohol ban through January 2022 at the earliest according to an internal memo that was sent to flight attendants on Friday. The Dallas-based carrier had planned to resume selling alcohol in late June after a more than 12-month hiatus but quickly shelved those plans after a flight attendant was subjected to a brutal assault.
“With the mask mandate being extended to January 18, 2022, there are no current plans to bring back alcohol prior to January 2022,” Randall Miller, a senior manager of inflight operations told staffers in the memo.
Alcohol misuse has been widely cited as one of the main contributors to unruly passenger incidents. Commentators, however, argue that disruptive passengers are getting intoxicated in airport bars and then smuggling their own alcohol onto planes.
It remains an offense for passengers to consume alcohol they’ve brought onboard themselves but it’s difficult for flights attendants to enforce and many passengers go unsanctioned.
The measures are supported by flight attendant unions but most airlines have already brought back alcohol after slashing in-flight service during the first wave of COVID-19 early last year.
American Airlines has, though, also delayed the return of ‘buy on board’ alcohol in Main Cabin on domestic routes citing the surge in unruly passenger incidents since the start of the year. The airline has already extended its own alcohol ban through January 2022 to coincide with the federal mask mandate.
As a result, the alcohol ban could be extended yet again if President Biden doesn’t lift the mask mandate.
Southwest had been planning to start selling beer and wine on flights to and from Hawaii starting June 24. Onboard alcohol sales would have then been extended to all flights over 250 miles from July 14. More alcohol options, including wine, vodka and whiskey, would also have been added on this date.
But on May 23, a Southwest flight attendant on a flight from Sacramento to San Diego was allegedly punched in the face with such force that she needed two teeth removed and replaced with crowns. Vyvianna Quinonez, 29, was recently charged with assault causing serious bodily injury and interfering with a flight crew member.
Following the assault, the Southwest flight attendant union pleaded with the airline’s management to take action to protect crew.
Although Southwest will extend its alcohol ban, the airline will push ahead with plans to introduce more soft drink options onboard. This is happening because those options had been planned alongside the introduction of alcohol and the contracts couldn’t be cancelled USA Today reports.
The additional choices include: orange juice, cranberry cocktail juice, ginger ale, seltzer water and tonic water. Southwest already offers Coke, Diet Coke, 7-Up and water.
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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.