Forget about that toast at 35,000 feet: Southwest Airlines isn't bringing back inflight booze until at least 2022

Forget about that toast at 35,000 feet: Southwest Airlines isn't bringing back inflight booze until at least 2022

Southwest Airlines does not plan to resume onboard alcohol sales until at least January, according to a memo sent to flight attendants on Friday.

The timeline is tied to the extension of the federal mask mandate on airplanes and at airports.

“With the mask mandate being extended to January 18, 2022, there are no current plans to bring back alcohol prior to January 2022,” Randall Miller, senior manager of inflight ops, initiatives and design said in the memo.

American Airlines made the same decision in August, when the mandate was extended because of the spike in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant. Southwest and American are the only two major carriers still not serving alcohol in economy class. (American serves it in first class; Southwest doesn’t have a first class.)

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Southwest was the first major U.S. airline to suspend traditional inflight service at the beginning of the pandemic to reduce interactions between passengers and flight attendants.

In May, Southwest announced plans to start selling inflight cocktails, beer and wine again beginning in late June.

Those plans were scrapped after a high-profile incident on a Southwest flight from Sacramento to San Diego in late May in which an altercation between a passenger and a flight attendant sent the flight attendant to the hospital. The attendant on the Southwest Airlines plane lost two teeth and suffered other injuries to her face, prosecutors said in federal court documents. A cut under her left eye required four stitches, her left eye was bruised and swollen, and her right arm was bruised.

“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 said at the time. “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 onboard.”

Southwest Airlines and other airlines repeatedly remind passengers to keep their masks on during the flight except when briefly eating or drinking.

Flight attendants have two major concerns with the return of alcohol: It can lead to unruly behavior and encourages travelers to keep their masks off longer.

Southwest will add more soft drinks to its inflight menu in October

Southwest is offering only four drink choices on its flights: Coke, Diet Coke, 7-Up and canned water. Flight attendants flash a laminated card to passengers in each row as they approach and ask them to hold up one, two, three or four fingers to signify their choice and to enable them to keep their masks on when ordering.

In October, the airline is bringing back seatback pocket menus and adding several soft drinks to the lineup, some of them because it had them on order as mixers for the return of alcohol, according to the memo. Flight attendants have asked the airline to reduce inflight service, not expand it, because of the delta variant. 

The new choices: orange juice, cranberry cocktail juice, ginger ale, seltzer water and tonic water. 

“With our original timeline to return alcohol service, we needed to proactively source seltzer and tonic water to ensure availability,” Miller said in the memo. “Due to the longer lead times to produce product and other supply constraints we’ve experienced, when our original plans changed, we still had an obligation to these suppliers.”

42d16ab8 bd1f 43e5 b6a3 5cb7aec3563e HotPants source Forget about that toast at 35,000 feet: Southwest Airlines isn't bringing back inflight booze until at least 2022



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