Southwest Airlines will resume selling alcohol on its flights this month, after discontinuing sales at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and following well publicized altercations between unruly passengers and staff.
Beer, wine and spirits will be available on flights of 176 miles and more beginning Feb. 16. The airline also will be expanding its offerings of non-alcoholic drinks.
“Customers have expressed a desire for more beverage options, so we’re delighted to restore additional on-board offerings as a part of the Southwest hospitality that our customers know and love,” Tony Roach, vice president, customer experience and customer relations, said in a statement.
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Southwest Airlines took alcohol off its menu in March 2020 because of the pandemic, a move meant to limit interactions onboard.
Since then airlines also have faced a surge in badly behaving passengers, often related to mask requirements. The Federal Aviation Administration began a strict enforcement policy in January 2021 and says there have been 323 reports of unruly passengers as of Feb. 1, 2022.
Southwest and American Airlines said in May that they were holding off plans on resuming alcohol sales because of disruptive passengers. A Southwest flight attendant lost two teeth after she was punched by a passenger that month on a flight from Sacramento to San Diego.
The flight attendants union is opposed to the resumption of alcoholic service.
“We have adamantly and unequivocally informed management that resuming sales of alcohol while the mask mandate is in place has the great potential to increase customer non-compliance and misconduct issues,” said Lyn Montgomery, president of Southwest flight attendants’ union, according to NBC News.
Masks are required on board airplanes, although they may be lowered when drinking or eating. The federal mask mandate is in effect through at least March 18.