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 resumption after a flight attendant was attacked and the industry grappled with a spate of other passenger incidents on board.
A Southwest flight attendant sustained facial injuries and lost two teeth after being attacked by a passenger, according to a May 24 letter from Southwest flight attendants union president Lyn Montgomery to CEO Gary Kelly. Between April 8 and May 15, there were 477 incidents of passenger misconduct on Southwest flights, Montgomery wrote.
Airlines have been slowly bringing back a meal snack and drink service that they paused at the start of the pandemic.
American Airlines said it won’t sell alcoholic beverages in the main cabin until September 13, when the federal mask mandate expires. It will continue to offer alcoholic beverages in First and Business Class, but only on the flight.
“In the last week we have seen some of these stressors on board aircraft lead to deeply worrying situations,” Brady Byrnes, American managing director of flight service, told flight attendants. “Let me be clear: American Airlines does not tolerate attack or abuse of our crews.”
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 Southwest spokesman said there is currently “no schedule” for resumption of alcohol sales.
“With alcohol sales returning to this already volatile environment, you can certainly understand our concern,” Montgomery wrote in the letter.
On Monday, one day after the incident aboard the Sacramento to San Diego flight, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it had received about 2,500 reports of recalcitrant passenger behavior this year, affecting about 1,900 travelers who refused to do so Federal mask mandate to be followed when traveling by air.
Biden’s government is still requiring 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 also recognize 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.