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Southwest Airlines is serving drinks again, encouraging 'non-verbal' ordering

March 24, 2021
3 min read
Southwest Airlines is serving drinks again, encouraging 'non-verbal' ordering
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Soft drinks are back at Southwest Airlines! As of this month, passengers on flights of over 250 miles will be able to choose from Coke, Diet Coke and 7Up, in addition to water, which is available on all flights.

The move comes as other U.S. carriers begin resuming certain elements on their onboard service. Delta will expand its snack and beverage offerings beginning on April 14, for example, while United is returning some dining options as soon as April 1 on certain routes.

What's notable about Southwest's shift is how the airline is asking customers to place their order. Rather than the usual spoken exchange between passengers and crew, the airline is encouraging flyers to utilize "non-verbal" ordering, instead.

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Travelers can view drink options on the inflight portal via southwestwifi.com, and simply zoom into the picture of the drink of choice. Alternatively, flight attendants can hold up a menu with four numbered options — travelers can hold up their fingers to indicate their choice.

"Customers are expressing a preference for additional beverage options, so this is one small way that we can meet Customer requests while still limiting selections to support the wellbeing and comfort of our Customers and Employees," a Southwest spokesperson said in confirming the move to TPG.

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

Health experts have documented that speaking can lead to increased transmission of COVID-19. While passengers are legally required to be wearing their masks except while actively eating or drinking, there's always a chance that a traveler ends up mid-bite as the flight attendant comes by to offer a drink.

Still, is it worth the extra effort for the airline and flight attendants? For that, I checked in with Dr. Elaine Hanh Le, chief medical officer for Healthline, TPG’s sister site.

"In many ways, this new strategy of showing people a photo of the options with numerical badging and having the person indicate selection via hand signals is great, not just to prevent the spread of COVID or any disease that could be transmitted via air droplets," Dr. Le said. "It is also potentially great for people who do not speak the native language or who have hearing difficulties."

This shift could also improve the travel experience for some flyers after the pandemic as well. As Dr. Le points out, presenting beverage options on a numbered card makes it possible for non-English speakers to place their order. For those travelers, some could end up skipping the beverage service entirely because of an inability to communicate with the crew.

Still, "non-verbal" ordering won't be an option for everyone. "There will always be people who need to have the options spoken to them and who will need to have the option spoken back, including people with vision difficulties," Dr. Le said.

Featured image by Boston Globe via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

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  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.