American Airlines is finally bringing back alcohol to the main cabin on domestic flights after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus but a two-drink limit might soon be introduced over concerns that passengers could get carried away and become unruly.
The Dallas-based carrier confirmed it would resume serving alcohol in coach on April 18 despite the fact the federal mask mandate has now been extended through May 3. The date on which alcohol returned was meant to coincide with the lifting of the mask mandate and had been delayed several times already because the mandate had been extended.
Alcohol sales were suspended at AA in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic but the airline has fallen behind other carriers that brought back alcohol long ago. Delta brought back alcohol in May 2021, while Alaska resumed onboard alcohol sales in April 2021. The likes of Frontier and Spirit were serving alcohol throughout 2020.
American Airlines had hoped to bring back alcohol late last year but the seemingly never-ending mask mandate has delayed its return to coach while service is pretty much back to normal in First Class.
Airlines are, however, increasingly frustrated with the mandate and view it as creating more problems than it solves. Unruly passenger behavior has surged since the introduction of the mandate and according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), nearly two-thirds of disruptive passenger incidents reported to the agency relate to face mask compliance.
Alcohol has also been one of the main reported reasons behind the worrying spike in unruly passenger incidents but this is partly because passengers have smuggled their own alcohol onboard or pre-loaded with to-go drinks at airports bars.
The theory is that once flight attendants are the ones responsible for serving alcohol, they’ll be able to monitor customer behavior more closely and know when to cut passengers off. That has certainly worked at other airlines that have reintroduced alcohol in the main cabin for months without any spike in passenger issues.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents AA crew members, however, would like American to introduce a maximum inflight drink limit of two beverages per customer. The union has already presented its argument to the airline and management are currently reviewing the proposal.
In January, the union had also asked the airline to slash inflight service because of the Omicron wave but there has so far been no similar request on the back of the highly infectious BA.2 sub-variant sweeping across the United States.
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.