Southwest, American Suspend Alcohol Sales Following Spike in Unruly Passenger Reports

Southwest is pushing back its return date for alcohol sales while American Airlines won't sell booze on board until September.

Southwest and American Airlines have each paused their plans to resume selling alcohol on flights following an uptick in unruly passengers this year.

Southwest, which had initially intended to bring back alcoholic beverages later this month, has now put those plans on hold with "no timetable" planned for when the sale of alcohol will return, CNBC reported.

The decision comes just weeks after a flight attendant for the carrier was assaulted on a flight from Sacramento to San Diego, according to the Port of San Diego Harbor Police Department. The flight attendant suffered injuries to her face and lost two teeth, CNBC noted.

The clash is part of a larger trend in unruly passengers with the Federal Aviation Administration seeing an uptick this year. Since Jan. 1, airlines have reported about 2,500 incidents of unruly passengers, including about 1,900 who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate.

"As alcohol sales are added back into this already volatile environment, you can surely understand our concern," Southwest flight attendants' union president Lyn Montgomery wrote in a letter last month, according to CNBC.

Wine on a flight
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

American Airlines will extend its ban on alcohol sales in the main cabin on its flights until at least Sept. 13, the carrier wrote in an internal memo over the weekend that was shared with T+L. That is the same day the federal mask mandate is currently set to expire.

The airline currently offers alcohol in its business class and first class cabins.

"Over the past week we've seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft. Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews," Brady Byrnes, the managing director of American Airlines' flight service training and administration, wrote in the memo. "We also recognize that alcohol can contribute to atypical behavior from customers onboard and we owe it to our crew not to potentially exacerbate what can already be a new and stressful situation for our customers."

Over the past few months, airlines have been gradually moving toward lifting pandemic-era flight policies. Delta Air Lines, for example, stopped blocking the middle seat in May — the last U.S. carrier to do so — while Southwest dropped its policy of boarding in smaller groups in March.

A representative for Southwest did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Travel + Leisure.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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