United is restoring liquor sales, downplays risk of unruly passengers

Oct 27, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

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.

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 photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.