American Airlines And Southwest Ban Alcohol

On Tuesday, June 1, 2021, American Airlines joined Southwest and banned alcohol during flights. According to an internal memo sourced by CNN, American Airlines will not serve economy passengers alcohol mid-flight. The ban may last until September 13, 2021. Once the federal mask mandate for planes, airports, and other public transportation lifts, alcohol sales mid-flight are likely to resume. Business and first-class, however, will continue to receive alcohol service with no delays.

The precautionary announcement curtails Southwest’s after a violent confrontation between a stewardess and passenger. During a flight from Sacramento, California, to San Diego, a flight attendant was attacked by a Southwest customer. The employee reportedly lost two teeth during the violent act. A different passenger caught the fight on camera, and it quickly went viral.

In response to the alleged attack, Southwest quickly notified the public of a ban on alcohol sales during their flights. “Given a recent uptick industry-wide of incidents in-flight involving disruptive passengers, we’re pausing previously announced resumption of alcohol service onboard,” the airline said in a statement. American Airlines, as well as Delta, shortly followed.

The Rise In Airline Violence

Unfortunately, the altercation is only one of many. In the past few weeks, there has been an influx of travelers this summer. Compared to March 2020, the airports had a 499% increase in customers. A report by the Transportation Security Administration shows that during Memorial Day weekend, 1.95 million people were flying. Besides the large crowds, airports nationwide are also seeing a spike in violent incidents. According to various news outlets, there has been a hoard of disorderly passengers going viral every few weeks.

Since the start of the pandemic, countless airline employees have battled with unruly clients. People have refused to use their masks, objected to self distance, or have reacted unreasonably. Now, as vaccines quickly roll out, the number of disagreeable passengers has increased. The massive number of people hoping to travel is causing long lines, capacity flight, and plenty of tension.

While at the airport, anxious travelers are bringing alcohol to drink, cursing at employees, and even threatening each other. Since February, about 22 people have received civil penalties. The Federal Aviation Administration disclosed they had received 2,500 reports of disruptive behavior. Of the 2,500 reports of disorderly conduct, 1,900 were of passengers disobeying federal face-mask requirements.

Paid Advertising. We receive advertising fees from purchases through BetterHelp links.

Online Addiction Counseling

Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 30,000+ Licensed Therapists


A Possible Solution: Alcohol Ban

To combat the rising number of incidents nationwide, airlines are taking action by banning alcohol sales. According to Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, “The incidents of violence on planes is out of control and alcohol is often a contributor. The federal government should provide guidance to airlines and airports on pausing alcohol sales for a period of time.” Brady Byrnes, American Airlines managing director of flight service training and administration, in a memo, added, “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.”

Though alcohol is a legally controlled substance, when used excessively, it can be dangerous. It lowers inhibitions and is highly correlated with violent acts. It also has a broad range of other side effects, from loss of coordination to slurred speech. Nearly 15 million Americans over 18 have an alcohol use disorder. Still, only about 7% of those addicted ever receive treatment. Unfortunately, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people with an alcohol disorder rose during the pandemic.

As the world rushes to return to a pre-Covid-19, it is essential to note that airlines must take some precautions to maintain the safety of every traveler. As of now, passengers may have more anxiety and stress than usual. Unfortunately, alcohol can aggravate those symptoms. To combat the problem, the airlines decided to halt their alcohol sales and not contribute to the further agitation of its guests. Like a spokesperson for Southwest said, “We realize this decision will be disappointing for some customers, but we feel it to be the right decision now in the interest of safety and comfort of all on board.” In the future, as tensions simmer and the world picks up pace, alcohol sales during flights could return.

Last Updated:


Suzette Gomez

Photo of Suzette Gomez
  • Suzette Gomez earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Her desire to help others led her to a Pre-medical track with a focus on psychological and social development. After graduation, she pursued her passion for writing and began working as a Digital Content Writer. With her background in medicine, Suzette uses both science and the arts to serve the public through her writing.

  • More from Suzette Gomez