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United is restoring liquor sales, downplays risk of unruly passengers

Oct. 27, 2021
3 min read
United is restoring liquor sales, downplays risk of unruly passengers
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Drinks are making a comeback on United Airlines this winter.

The Chicago-based airline is bucking the trend and restarting hard liquor sales in the coach cabin beginning on Nov. 15.

The news was communicated to flight attendants in an internal memo, which was seen by TPG and confirmed by the airline.

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When hard liquor sales resume in mid-November, they’ll be available on flights of at least 301 miles in domestic, Canada and Latin America markets.

You’ll be able to choose from an assortment of vodka, gin, whiskey and other single-serve miniatures when the flight attendant passes by your row.

Crews have been instructed to only serve passengers a single nip of liquor at a time during each beverage service.

Prices range from $9 to $10, and top-tier Premier 1K and invite-only Global Services members can enjoy a complimentary alcoholic drink when seated in coach.

For everyone else, payment will be collected using United’s new contactless method, which requires saving a valid form of payment in the carrier’s mobile app before departure.

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A look at United's beverage options on a recent Polaris flight (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In recent months, United has exclusively served beer, wine and hard seltzer in the coach cabin — and kept the “hard stuff” limited to those sitting in the pointy end of the plane.

The move to restore full alcohol service comes as airlines nationwide are experiencing a sharp uptick in the number of unruly passengers. To mitigate the risk of inflight disturbances, some carriers, including American and Southwest, have scrapped all liquor sales in the coach cabin.

“As always, flight attendants are responsible for recognizing alcohol and drug intoxication symptoms and should report any customer who appears to be under the influence,” reads the United memo.

A carrier spokesperson explained the decision to restore liquor sales in a statement, saying:

Our decision to bring back liquor was heavily informed by feedback from both our customers and employees. The incidence of unruly passengers is very low compared to our number of customers overall and is also low in comparison to what other U.S. carriers are seeing. With travel demand on the rise and the many safety protocols we have in place, particularly with our suite of contactless payment solutions, now felt like the right time to expand our inflight beverage menu.

In addition to bringing back liquor sales to coach, United is also tweaking its seasonal beverages menu to “get into the holiday spirit," with the full details below:

  • White Claw Hard Seltzer Black Cherry replaces White Claw Hard Seltzer Mango
  • Goose Island Neon Beer Hug IPA replaces Breckenridge Brewery Juicy Drop Hazy IPA
  • Kona Longboard Island Lager replaces Kona Big Wave Golden Ale

These changes will kick in on Nov. 1, and the existing stock of the outgoing drinks will be depleted in the coming weeks.

Full menu of liquor options

  • Wheatley Craft Distilled Vodka - $9
  • Bombay Sapphire Gin - $10
  • Bacardi Rum - $9
  • Jack Daniel’s Whiskey - $9
  • Glenfarclas 12-Year Scotch - $10
  • Dewar’s White Label Scotch - $9
  • Buffalo Trace Bourbon - $10
  • Bailey’s Irish Cream - $10
Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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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  • Recommended Credit
    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.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • 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.