In-flight alcohol returns to Southwest flights

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Southwest Airlines brought alcohol back to in-flight service Wednesday, nearly two years after it removed its on-board booze because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Southwest, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, says its customers who had drink coupons set to expire in 2020 or 2021 can now use them for beverages through 2022.

The return of alcohol on Southwest flights generated opposition from the Dallas-based airline’s flight attendants union, which raised concerns about unruly passengers on board.

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Transport Workers Union Local 556 issued a statement saying it is “outraged” at Southwest’s actions, which it called “both unsafe and irresponsible.” Unruly passenger incidents have increased during the pandemic, with some travelers refusing to comply with mask mandates and acting out on planes.

The Federal Aviation Administration highlighted the problem of alcohol-fueled passenger disturbances last year, saying it received nearly 300 reports of such incidents due to intoxication in 2021.

Many other airlines have already brought alcohol back on board.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, the dominant carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, briefly discontinued alcohol service on domestic flights early on in the pandemic, but brought alcohol back to those flights starting in July 2020.

Last year, Delta expanded its alcohol offerings, selling canned cocktails, different beer choices and drinks made with liquor from Black-owned distillery Du Nord Social Spirits.

Delta has called for more action by the federal government to combat bad behavior on planes, pushing for a national no-fly list for unruly passengers convicted for on-board disruptions.

But Delta said it does not plan to remove or adjust alcohol service at this time, saying it is “confident in the robust set of procedures and support systems we have in place.” The airline said it continues to monitor feedback from customers and employees.