American Airlines extending its alcohol sales ban until 2022

Aug 19, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information. 


Recently, there’s been a succession of news stories about unruly passengers causing trouble in the air during this recent travel surge. U.S. airlines are taking precautionary measures as they’ve witnessed a recent uptick in disorderly passenger behavior.

American Airlines was one of the most recent airlines to ban alcohol sales in its economy cabin this summer. Now, American has announced that the ban will be extended until at least January 2022, as first reported by Sam Sweeney at ABC News.

Originally, an internal memo sent to flight attendants back in May and first obtained by CNN stated that economy passengers flying with American would have to wait until at least Sept. 13 before they can order a mid-flight drink.

In the memo, vice president of flight service Brady Byrnes stated the reasoning behind the airline’s decision:

“Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft. Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews. While we appreciate that customers and crewmembers are eager to return to ‘normal,’ we will move cautiously and deliberately when restoring pre-COVID practices.”

Related: Don’t be a jerk on a flight; there are no more second chances this summer

This came at the heels of other airlines, such as Southwest Airlines’ announcement earlier in the summer that they, too, are pausing alcohol sales altogether after a flight attendant was physically assaulted in-flight by an inebriated passenger. Southwest Airlines has yet to determine if they’ll reintroduce alcohol sales past September — which is when the previous TSA transportation mask mandate was expected to expire.

With TSA extending the mask mandate on all public transportation networks through January 2022 — including at airports and onboard airplanes — many passengers will have to wait just as long to sip on an inflight adult beverage.

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(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

American was planning to resume full main cabin beverage service, including alcoholic beverage options and its buy-on-board food program later in the summer. However, those plans have now been put on hold.

For now, pre-departure beverage service remains suspended in premium cabins. In the main cabin on flights under 250 miles, non-alcoholic beverage service is available upon request. On flights of 250+ miles, non-alcoholic beverage service with be offered with a snack.

“Alcohol will continue to be offered in premium cabins (First/Business class),” according to the memo — but only inflight. American notes that “pre-departure beverage service continues to remain paused.”

Related: In-flight service is back — here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

Featured photo by ColorBlind Images/Getty Images.

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