United Airlines Resumes Sales Of Alcoholic Spirits Onboard

United Airlines has resumed sales of alcohol on its flights this week. Passengers in economy class on flights over 300 miles can now purchase hard liquor. The decision comes after United assessed feedback from customers and crew and decided that restarting alcohol sales would be safe. United is one of the first airlines to resume alcohol sales following a spate of violent incidents onboard flights.

United Airlines Boeing 777-300(ER) N2250U
United has become one of the first airlines to fully resume alcohol sales since the rise in incidents last year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Available again

From Monday, 15th November, United resumed the sale of hard liquor on domestic economy class flights. The policy applies to all US, Canada, and Latin American flights over 300 miles, where travelers can now purchase miniature bottles of their alcohol of choice. Due to the pandemic, payments can only be made from contactless readers and not cash.

United is one of the first carriers to begin selling alcohol since violent incidents spiked in the last year. With the safety of passengers and crew at serious risk, airlines like Southwest and American suspended alcohol sales until at least 2022. United had paused all alcohol offerings last year and had only resumed beer, wine, and seltzers in November 2020. The rise in violence was likely the reason hard liquor did not make a return until now.

Cabin crew 787
The FAA logged thousands of incidents since the pandemic hit. While most related to mask violations, many also had to do with drunk passengers acting aggressively. Photo: Getty Images

In a statement to Simple Flying, a United spokesperson said,

In response to the feedback we’ve received from both customers and flight attendants, as of November 15, liquor miniatures will be available for sale through contactless payment…The ability to offer a complete food and beverage menu is something that we know is important to our customers and we’re excited to continue to enhance our onboard service while keeping the safety of our employees and customers at the forefront of all we do.”

Part of the service

While the decision to bring back alcohol might raise some eyebrows given the recent tensions onboard, airlines do have a reason. For better or worse, liquor has been part of the flying experience for millions of passengers every year. While this was first removed due to the pandemic, as travel returns to normal, travelers are demanding a return to normal services.

Alcohol sales are also major revenue generators for airlines, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars every day. However, safety is always the focus, and there has been some progress made here too.

FAA Chief Steve Dickson Pilots Boeing 737 MAX Test Flight
The FAA has made it clear that it will not tolerate violence onboard and has not hesitated to slap huge fines on violators. Photo: Getty Images

The FAA has seen a sharp fall in unruly passenger incidents since January. The case rate has fallen from 13 cases per 10,000 flights in the early months of the year to just 5.6 cases per 10,000 flights this week. While this is still substantially higher than before, these are encouraging signs that huge fines and enforcement are keeping passengers in check.

Do you think onboard alcohol sales should resume in economy? Let us know in the comments!