Looking forward to a drink mid-air? You’ll have to wait a little longer.

Jun 16, 2020

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If the idea of flying this year has stressed you out, your nerves might benefit from a cocktail or two. But if you haven’t traveled since the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S., don’t bank on getting a drink on board your next flight: Chances are, your airline may no longer offer alcoholic drink service.

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A number of U.S. airlines including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue and other carriers are temporarily suspending in-flight drink service in order to minimize coronavirus exposure and spread, as reported by CBS News. For instance, JetBlue offers pre-sealed plastic bags containing bottled water and two snacks, while travelers flying in JetBlue Mint receive single-serve containers of beer and wine alongside of pre-sealed meal boxes, according to CBS.

Delta told CBS that all alcohol sales have been eliminated from both domestic and international travel to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America, regardless of cabin class. This decision limits “essential onboard food and beverage options in an effort to reduce physical touch points between customers and employees,” according to a Delta statement to CBS.

Meanwhile, American Airlines scaled back its food and beverage offerings as far back as March 2020, limiting alcohol to flights of 2,200 miles or longer. In its stead, the airline is exploring the possibility of offering snacks and drinks at departure gates in the near future, according to the press release on the AA website. First- and business class meal service will be served on a single tray instead of in multiple courses.

JetBlue is offering a similar solution: “To minimize physical transactions and service touchpoints, we’ve temporarily replaced our snack baskets and beverage service with a pre-sealed snack and beverage bag,” a statement on the airline’s Inflight Experience web page reads. “We will not have any buy-onboard products like beer, wine, or liquor, EatUp Boxes, EatUp Café, pillows, blankets and earbuds.”

Beloved U.S. airline Southwest has a similar disclaimer. “Starting May 22, we will begin serving cans of water with straws and a snack mix on flights over 250 miles, when available,” the airline’s website stated. “Cups and ice will be available upon request. For all other flights, snack and beverage service is still temporarily suspended to limit customer and flight attendant interactions.”

United Airlines told TPG that the carrier has been offering pre-packaged, individual services of beer and wine in premium cabins only since late March, also for the same health and hygiene considerations.

Many of these measures impact economy-class travelers only: Premium cabin travelers may have to ask for their drinks instead of having them offered by default, but a limited selection of alcohol is often still available by request. TPG’s Brian Kelly recently flew from Newark to Palm Springs on United, and had the option to choose between two beers (Stella Artois and Miller Lite) or wine; no cocktails were available for health safety reasons, according to his flight attendant.

This dry safety measure may feel disappointing, but it’s only temporary. As the pandemic eventually subsides and life goes back to normal, airlines will slowly begin phasing alcoholic drinks back into your travel repertoire.

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael for The Points Guy.

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