American Airlines Halts Alcohol Sales, Joining Southwest Airlines

by Jennifer Shea

American Airlines has pushed back the reintroduction of alcohol sales on its flights, joining Southwest Airlines. The move comes amid what the airlines say is a spike in disruptive behavior aboard their aircrafts.

In an internal memo sent on Saturday, American informed crew members that it will wait until Sept. 13 to allow alcohol sales on its flights. An American Airlines spokesperson told The Hill that that date corresponds with the end of the federal mask mandate.

“American suspended alcohol sales in the Main Cabin in late March 2020, and that service will remain suspended through Sept. 13,” the spokesperson told The Hill.

Thousands of Cases of Unruly Behavior on Planes

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, since the beginning of the year, the agency has received about 2,500 reports of unruly behavior in the skies. Roughly 1,900 of those were incidents in which passengers declined to follow the mask mandate.

One case in particular seems to have motivated Southwest Airlines to extend its alcohol ban. On a flight from Sacramento to San Diego earlier this month, a 28-year-old woman punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, who lost two teeth and sustained other injuries to her face.

The flight attendant’s union president, Lyn Montgomery, told the Associated Press that that incident, while shocking, was just one of many. From April 8 to May 15 alone, there were 477 incidents of unruly behavior on Southwest planes.

“I’ve been in the industry since 1992, and this is the worst ever,” Montgomery told the AP. “People seem to be more angry. When they’re asked to do something, compliance seems to be more difficult.”

Montgomery added that de-escalation tactics are increasingly failing, and a minority of passengers are growing more determined to challenge crew members’ authority.

American Airlines, Southwest Postpone Reintroduction of Alcohol

Southwest had originally planned to reintroduce alcohol sales this June and July, USA Today reports. But after the incident this month, among others, the airline had second thoughts.

“Given the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions in-flight, we have made the decision to pause the previously announced restart of alcohol service onboard,” Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz told USA Today. “We realize this decision may be disappointing for some customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the safety and comfort of all customers and crew on board.”

American followed suit soon thereafter. Airline officials say there have been multiple incidents on their flights, as well.