American and Southwest have extended their alcohol bans through at least January. Picture: Pexels.
American and Southwest have extended their alcohol bans through at least January. Picture: Pexels.

Alcohol is such a problem, US airlines have added it to safety announcements - and banned it

By The Washington Post Time of article published Sep 21, 2021

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By Hannah Simpson

Air travellers are hearing more than just announcements about seat belts, flotation devices, travel time and masks before they take off. Several airlines have added reminders about their alcohol policy during the pandemic - as in, don't drink it if they didn't serve it.

And not every airline is serving it. After the federal mask mandate was extended until January 2022, Southwest - which has not been serving alcohol - said earlier this month that it has no plans to bring back sales before January.

American Airlines, which had earlier suspended alcohol sales in the main cabin until September 13, said in August that it would continue that hiatus through January 18.

"We are doing all we can to help create a safe environment for our crew and customers on board our aircraft," the airline said in a letter to flight attendants.

United and Delta restarted alcohol service, though there are some limitations depending on the duration of flights.

The suspension of beer, wine and liquor sales does not mean travellers can drink their own booze - even if they can bring mini-bottles on board. The Federal Aviation Administration says regulations "prohibit passengers from drinking alcohol on board the aircraft unless it is served by the air carrier."

American Airlines said in a statement that it has updated its preflight announcements to reflect new information on mask rules, Covid-19 safety measures and "policies related to onboard alcohol consumption."

"These announcements are made regularly throughout the travel journey by gate agents, flight attendants and by pilots," the statement said.

JetBlue has similarly adjusted its announcements to "make clear that consuming personal alcohol is not allowed," spokesman Derek Dombrowski said in an email. Southwest has not added the warning to its official script, but flight attendants have the authority to include reminders if they see fit.

Frontier flagged the issue and included language even before the pandemic.

Delta has also updated its language for flight attendants, first with mentions of the mask mandate and then with a reminder about the regulations that prohibit alcohol consumption.

"Mask reminders have been in place since mid-2020 and the alcohol portion has been in place since late 2020," Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said in an email.

More than 20 passengers have faced fines over the past several months for offences including consuming their own alcohol, according to updates from the FAA. Airlines have reported an unprecedented rise in disruptive behaviour by passengers over the past several months, in large part driven by resistance to the federal mask mandate. But the FAA said last month that alcohol is often a contributing factor.

"Even though FAA regulations specifically prohibit the consumption of alcohol aboard an aircraft that is not served by the airline, we have received reports that some airport concessionaires have offered alcohol 'to go,' and passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated during the boarding process," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson wrote in a letter to airport officials. He asked airports to help curb the practice.

American said last month in its letter to employees that it was "gaining ground" in efforts along with the FAA to get rid of "to go" drinks at airports in Dallas and Charlotte.

"We will continue to work with and hope other airports and vendors will follow," the letter said.

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