Alaska Airlines will offer just one beverage service in the main cabin no matter the length of the flight and axe fresh meals on medium-haul flights through the end of January 2022 after flight attendants raised concerns that they were at increased risk of COVID-19 infection with the return of pre-pandemic levels of inflight service.
The Seattle-based carrier had previously dismissed concerns from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) about the rollback of pandemic era safety measures but a sharp uptick in employee sickness from the Omicron surge sweeping across the United States appears to have resulted in a rethink.
Last week, Alaska Airlines said ‘unprecedented’ levels of staff sickness, combined with bad weather had forced it scrap 10% of scheduled flights through January to give the struggling carrier “time and space to find our path forward together”.
Along with cutting back drinks services and axing fresh meals, Alaska Airlines will also reduce the number of pre-orders allowed on transcon and Hawaii flights from 63 to just 42 per flight. The carrier’s picnic packs will be removed from the pre-order selection but a limited number will still be available to purchase onboard.
All the measures were taken directly from a list of recommendations that AFA presented to the airline last month. The union said it had spent “hours upon hours’ in meetings with management trying to convince them to reduce inflight service levels but had been rebuffed by the airline.
Jeffrey Peterson, president of the Alaska Airlines branch of the flight attendant union told members Alaska management appeared “profoundly out of touch with flight attendants” and that morale amongst flight attendants had hit the “lowest ever within recent memory”.
Peterson said flight attendants were pushing for a reduction in service in order to reduce the amount of time crew members had to interact with passengers. The union also said reducing service levels would give passengers less excuse to lower their face masks.
Last week, Air New Zealand curtailed inflight service altogether on domestic flights so that passengers wouldn’t have to lower or remove their face masks for the duration of the flight. The longest domestic flight in Air New Zealand’s network is just over two hours long and passengers will still receive a small snack as they deplane.
At the end of this week, Finnair was told to stop selling alcoholic drinks on domestic flights after 5 pm because officials decided it was subject to the same pandemic restrictions that have been slapped on restaurants, bars and cafes. The airline’s lounges at Helsinki airport must also remove all alcoholic drinks after 5 pm.
American Airlines and Southwest continue to enforce alcohol bans of varying degrees over fears that when combined with the federal face mask mandate, drunk passengers could become unruly.
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.