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Southwest Airlines extends alcohol ban until 2022

written by Isabella Richards | September 13, 2021
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX, pictured at Las Vegas International (Tomás Del Coro/Wikicommons).

Southwest Airlines has announced it will not resume in-flight alcohol services until at least early 2022.

In a memo sent to flight attendants, the low-cost carrier said it extended the ban in line with the mask mandate extension until 18 January for travellers.

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

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The Dallas-based carrier has followed competitor American Airlines in this move, which announced the extension of the alcohol ban last month.

American also said it would extend the ban until January to “create a safe environment” for its flight crew.

This is not the first time both companies have made this decision.

In early June, the two decided to extend the ban along with the first mask mandate postponement – originally until September – due to a particular incident on a Southwest flight.

San Diego International Airport received a disturbing call about a crew member who was brutally beaten by a customer on a flight from Sacramento.

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The 28-year-old was caught on video injuring a crew member, which sparked the two companies to rethink the resumption of alcohol on board.

Regulators in the past few months have tightened up consequences for violent passengers, as the numbers have increased this year more than ever before.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handed out an additional US$531,545 in fines to unruly passengers last month – predominately to travellers on low-cost carriers.

According to the American regulator, fines significantly increased due to alcohol consumption and mask mandates which have continued to be extended.

The Transportation Security Administration said last week it would start doubling fines for travelers who do not follow the federal mask mandate, in a bit to curtail unruly passenger violations.

While Southwest will not re-introduce alcohol for a while, the company said it would increase its drink options in October.

The airline is bringing in several new drinks such as orange juice, cranberry cocktail juice, ginger ale, seltzer water and tonic water.

This will be on top of the basic menu of drinks it was already selling, such as coke, water and sodas.

“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.”

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