Southwest And American Airlines Delay Alcohol Sales Resumption

Major US carriers American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have reportedly pushed back their planned resumptions of onboard alcohol sales. While restrictions in other areas are being eased, a surge in abusive behavior towards crew members has prompted the airlines to keep this particular regulation in place for the time being.

Southwest & American Boeing 737s
Southwest and American have deferred their planned alcohol restarts. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

Southwest Airlines

According to CNN, Southwest Airlines has decided not to resume its onboard alcohol sales for the time being. The Dallas-based carrier came to this decision earlier in the week, following a violent assault on one of its cabin crew members on a flight from Sacramento to San Diego. The attack caused the attendant in question to lose two teeth.

Southwest had initially been planning to resume sales on certain flights in June. However, this incident has caused the airline to rethink its policy, with CNN also reporting that the suspension will continue indefinitely. Southwest Airlines’ head of in-flight operations, Sonya Lacore, reportedly confirmed in a recent memo that:

Based on the rise in passenger disruptions in flight, I’ve made the decision to re-evaluate the restart of alcohol service onboard.”

Southwest’s suspension of alcohol sales will remain indefinite. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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American Airlines

Yesterday, NBC added that Fort Worth-based US legacy carrier American Airlines would be taking similar action. Unlike Southwest, the carrier appears to have set a date for the resumption, namely September 13th. It is targeting this date as this is also when the US’s mask mandate onboard aircraft (and other public transport) is set to end.

In the case of American, it is important to note that the suspension presently only applies to the main cabin. Indeed, business and first class passengers will still be able to be served alcohol inflight. Of course, American also issued a temporary alcohol suspension on Washington-bound services in January ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Southwest And American Airlines Delay Alcohol Sales Resumption
American hopes to resume main cabin alcohol sales in September. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

American’s Managing Director of flight service, Brady Byrnes, hopes that the ongoing suspension will keep its crews safe by removing an aspect that can be a factor in abusive behavior. He recently told the airline’s flight attendants that:

Over the past week, we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations onboard aircraft. Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews.”

The latest of several assaults

While the recent assault on a Southwest attendant prompted the airline to defer its resumption of onboard alcohol sales, this is sadly not the only case of such an incident. Indeed, each of the ‘big three’ US carriers has recently been the subject of onboard abuse.

Boeing 767
United is currently serving alcohol on flights longer than two hours. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

For example, an American Airlines passenger was arrested just this month after punching a flight attendant multiple times. Meanwhile, February saw the FAA propose a $27,500 fine for a mask-refusing Delta passenger who struck a cabin crew member last year.

A United passenger has also recently been the subject of an even heftier fine, amounting to $50,000. Once again, this came about after they assaulted a flight attendant, forcing a Los Angeles-Tokyo flight to divert to Anchorage, where they were offloaded.

What do you make of Southwest and American’s decisions to delay the resumption of onboard alcohol sales? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.