(The Hill) — Southwest Airlines announced Friday that it will return to serving alcoholic beverages on flights almost two years after it paused its on-board beverage options in March 2020.
The airline said in a press release it will return to offering an expanded selection of beverages on Feb. 16, on flights at least 176 miles long.
Southwest’s customer experience and customer relation vice president, Tony Roach, said the airline would restore its beverage options after customers had “expressed a desire for more beverage options.”
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The airline had originally planned to resume normal alcohol sales in June last year but decided to nix its plans after a flight attendant was attacked mid-flight. A Southwest Airlines spokesman told The Hill last year that they felt it was “the right decision in the interest of the Safety and comfort of all Customers and Crew onboard.”
Southwest said it will restore a wide range of alcoholic beverages for on-board purchase, including beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, rum and tequila. It will also add nonalcoholic beverages like tonic water, apple juice, Coke Zero, Dr. Pepper, hot tea and hot cocoa.
However, the flight attendants’ union pushed back on the move, with TWU Local 556 President Lyn Montgomery calling the resumption of alcohol sales on Southwest “unsafe and irresponsible.”
Montgomery told The Hill that TWU Local 556 is outraged at Southwest Airlines’s resumption of alcohol sales. “We have adamantly and unequivocally informed management that resuming sales of alcohol while the mask mandate is in place has the great potential to increase customer non-compliance and misconduct issues,” the statement added. “Additionally, adding these sales on ultra-short-haul flights puts flight attendants’ safety and security at a level of risk that is unacceptable because of the possibility of injuries when flight attendants are serving drinks rather than being secure in jumpseats upon descent,” it said.
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According to the union, safety for all passengers and crew members on board is the number one job of flight attendants, and “it should be the number-one concern for Southwest Airlines, as well.” Southwest did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
According to Federal Aviation Association data released in November, 5,114 incidents involving unruly passengers have been reported in 2021. The agency has also levied $225,000 in fines against passengers over the incidents.