Americans, Southwest Hold back alcohol sales after surge in recalcitrant travelers


A bird flies by in the foreground as a Southwest Airlines jet lands at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 25, 2020.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines announced that they are holding back alcoholic beverages service after a flight attendant was attacked and the industry grappled with a spate of other onboard passenger incidents.

A southwest flight attendant sustained facial injuries and lost two teeth after being attacked by a passenger. This emerges from a letter dated May 24th to CEO Gary Kelly from Southwest flight attendants union president Lyn Montgomery. Between April 8 and May 15, there were 477 incidents of passenger misconduct on flights to the southwest, Montgomery wrote.

Airlines have been slowly bringing back a snack and drink service that they stopped at the start of the pandemic.

American Airlines said it will not sell alcoholic beverages in the main cabin until Sept. 13, when the federal mask mandate expires. Alcoholic beverages will continue to be offered in First and Business Class, but only during the flight.

“For the past week, some of these stressors have created deeply worrying situations on board aircraft,” said Brady Byrnes, executive director of flight operations at American, in a note to flight attendants. “Let me be clear: American Airlines does not tolerate attack or abuse of our crews.”

The Dallas-based Southwest had planned to resume alcohol sales in June for Hawaii flights and in July for longer domestic flights in the continental United States. A spokesman from the Southwest said there is currently “no schedule” for resumption of alcohol sales.

“If alcohol sales resume in this already volatile environment, you can certainly understand our concerns,” Montgomery wrote in the letter.

On Monday, one day after the incident aboard the Sacramento to San Diego flight, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it had received approximately 2,500 reports of recalcitrant passenger behavior this year, approximately 1,900 cases of travelers refusing to do so Federal mask mandate to be followed during air travel.

The Biden government continues to require people to wear face masks on airplanes, at airports, and on buses and trains by September 13, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed guidelines for vaccinated people in other settings.

“We are also aware that alcohol can contribute to atypical behavior by customers on board, and we owe it to our crew not to aggravate what may already be a new and stressful situation for our customers,” said Byrnes.



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