CHICAGO- Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, every airline faced the task of adapting their onboard beverage service due to federal mask-wearing regulations. The challenge was to find ways to serve beverages without passengers removing their masks while ordering or drinking.
Southwest Airlines (WN), during a significant portion of that time, streamlined its beverage options to water, coffee, Coke, and Diet Coke.
To place an order, customers were requested to raise a finger.
Like other airlines, Southwest instructed passengers to move their masks aside to take a sip briefly and immediately put them back on afterward. This measure was taken by all airlines to ensure compliance with safety guidelines.
COVID 19 Restrictions
Not all passengers were in favor of these rules, as mask-wearing for COVID prevention became a highly debated and political topic.
Some individuals believed that the government had no authority to mandate masks, and this put the airlines in a challenging position, as they were obliged to enforce federal laws regardless of their personal opinions.
As a result, many major airlines either suspended alcoholic beverage service or restricted its availability. While this decision might have impacted the industry’s financial performance, it helped flight attendants avoid dealing with intoxicated and confrontational passengers.
During this time, flight attendants faced increased incidents of violence and verbal harassment related to rules they had no control over but were required to enforce. United Airlines (UA) has fully returned to its pre-COVID onboard alcohol beverage policies on all flights.
United Doubles Alcohol with New Beverage Rule
During the height of the pandemic, United Airlines made the decision to suspend all alcohol sales onboard its flights.
As the situation improved, the airline gradually reintroduced alcohol sales, starting with premium cabins and later extending it to coach/economy passengers.
During this period, United implemented a policy of limiting passengers to one alcoholic drink at a time.
They could request a second drink later, but the airline aimed to reduce instances of passengers removing their masks while onboard and mitigate potential disruptions fueled by alcohol consumption.
United Airlines has returned to its pre-pandemic approach, as stated in a memo shared with LiveandLetsFly.com.
The Inflight Service policy will be updated to allow flight attendants to serve customers two alcoholic beverages at once upon request, replacing the previous policy of one alcoholic beverage per customer.
Flight attendants have faced an alarming increase in violence, particularly during the height of mask requirements and covid-related rules.
However, with the easing of these regulations, UA has decided to revert to its pre-pandemic policy of allowing flight attendants to serve two alcoholic beverages to customers upon request, replacing the previous one-drink-per-customer policy.
The removal of mask rules has eliminated an avenue for potential conflicts over mask mandates on airplanes, thus reducing the risk for flight attendants.
Despite the relaxation of mask rules, the number of reported incidents of violence toward flight attendants has remained high. According to KABC, reported incidents surged from around 1,000 in 2020 to approximately 6,000 in 2021.
Data compiled by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed that unruly passenger incidents increased by 47% in 2022, surpassing the record high of one incident per 835 flights set in 2021.
Despite the end of mask requirements, flight attendants continue to face challenges in ensuring a safe and secure travel environment.
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