American Airlines will delay the sale of alcoholic beverages this summer to key cabin passengers due to increased passenger misbehavior in recent months, including refusal to wear masks and several assaults on flight attendants.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines told crew members it would not reintroduce the sale of beer, wine and spirits to main cabin class passengers until federal government officials abandoned the mask mandate on planes and airports. The mask’s mandate is currently set to expire on September 14. American was due to bring back liquor sales on Tuesday.
American Airlines is joining Dallas-based Southwest Airlines in pushing back the reintroduction of the sale of alcoholic beverages after flight attendants expressed concern over the recent increase in bad behavior by passengers. Concerns peaked after a bloody assault on a Southwestern flight attendant last week on a landing flight in San Diego.
“Over the past week, we have seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on airplanes,” American Airlines Vice President of Flight Safety Brady Byrnes said in a letter. to crew members on Saturday. âLet me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews.
“We also recognize that alcohol can contribute to atypical customer behavior on board, and we owe it to our crew not to potentially aggravate what can already be a new and stressful situation for our customers.”
American Airlines discontinued alcoholic beverage service in March 2020 to reduce contact between flight attendants and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also cut back on the service of soft drinks, juices, snacks and food. Airlines are starting to bring back these services, and American started selling alcohol to some premium class customers earlier this year.
But for everyone, alcohol will have to wait a few more months.
“It’s no secret that the threats flight attendants face every day have dramatically increased,” said a letter to union members from Julie Hedrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents the 13,400 American flight attendants. âEvery day, we are subjected to verbal and sometimes physical altercations, mainly centered on the observance of the mask. These altercations are often exacerbated when customers have consumed alcohol at the airport or alcohol that they have brought on board.
Airlines and federal authorities have noted an increase in passenger misbehavior. Flight attendant union leaders attributed much of the surge in passengers refusing to wear masks, a COVID-19 precaution that took on deep political symbolism after the November presidential election and storming on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by Trump supporters who refused to accept Electoral College results.
The Federal Aviation Administration has noted more than 2,500 reports of passenger misconduct this year, and a spokesperson for the agency said there had been a sharp rise from late last year.
Flight attendants were often caught in the middle of the issue and lobbied a lot for a federal mandate for face masks on airplanes. President Joe Biden made a federal rule on face masks on airplanes one of his first executive orders after taking office.
But passenger misconduct continued throughout the year despite numerous passenger fines proposed by the FAA. Several of these fines resulted from the fact that passengers drank alcohol that they had purchased at airports.
Airlines are now facing their biggest crowd since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 2 million passengers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on Friday, nearly 80% more than on the same date in 2019.
Atlanta-based Delta Airlines resumed serving alcohol to passengers in July 2020. Chicago-based United is expected to resume sales of alcoholic beverages in June, and a company spokesperson said United no hadn’t made the decision to change that.