Southwest further delays return of alcohol sales until 2022

Sep 11, 2021

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

At the start of the pandemic, airlines significantly scaled back their onboard food and beverage offerings. On some short flights, you might not have even received water.

While some things look different, most airlines have since resumed many elements of their onboard service. However, Southwest has taken a more conservative approach. It initially suspended all onboard beverages and snacks and then only served water for many months. It was only this March that it began to offer a (very) limited selection of sodas on some of its flights again. Then, in late June, it resumed coffee service on most flights.

One thing that Southwest hasn’t resumed yet is alcohol sales. The carrier was planning to resume it on select flights over the summer but delayed it due to a surge in reports of unruly passengers. As reported by USA Today, the Dallas-based carrier has now confirmed that it won’t restore inflight booze until at least early 2022.

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Southwest details inflight service plans

As of June 24, Southwest resumed serving complimentary coffee on all flights of 251 miles or longer. Originally, it was also going to reintroduce alcohol sales on some flights on that date. However, that’s been delayed.

In late May, Southwest provided the following explanation:

Given the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions inflight, we have made the decision to pause the previously announced re-start of alcohol service onboard June (Hawaii flights) and July. We will proceed with expanding our selection of soft drinks and coffee as planned. We realize this decision may be disappointing for some Customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the Safety and comfort of all Customers and Crew onboard.

Related: FAA reaches $1 million benchmark in fines issued to unruly passengers

Southwest originally didn’t provide a timetable for when it might bring back alcohol. However, in a memo sent to flight attendants on Sept. 10, Randall Miller, senior manager of inflight operations, explained that the alcohol sales won’t resume until at least the end of January 2022. 

The memo notes, “With the mask mandate being extended to January 18, 2022, there are no current plans to bring back alcohol prior to January 2022.”

This date coincides with when the federal mask mandate on public transportation networks — including at airports and onboard airplanes — is set to expire. American Airlines also delayed the return of alcohol sales in mid-August, shortly after the mandate was extended, though continues to offer alcohol in premium cabins.

Southwest’s original plans were to reintroduce alcohol sales on flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii starting on June 24 and expand to all flights 251 miles and longer beginning July 14. There were going to be several different kinds of beer, wine and spirits on offer:

  • Miller Lite ($6)
  • Dos Equis ($6)
  • Blue Moon ($7)
  • Carmenet Cabernet Sauvignon ($6)
  • Mossel Bay Chenin Blanc Chardonnay ($6)
  • Deep Eddy Vodka ($7)
  • Jack Daniels Whiskey ($7)

Related: Here’s what food and drinks the major U.S. airlines are currently serving

Southwest crew members are once again offering soft drinks onboard. (Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest)

Bottom line

Though hopes had been raised that Southwest’s alcohol service might resume before the end of the year, you’re now going to have to wait until at least the end of January 2022. Given today’s news, Southwest will likely further extend any expiring drink coupons.

For the time being, you’ll have to settle for soft drinks, such as coffee, Coke, Diet Coke, 7-Up and water. Remember, you can’t drink your own booze on an airplane.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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