The Reason Some Flight Attendants Are Resisting The Return Of Alcohol

Flight attendants already have a trying job. Apart from helping passengers place bags in crowded overhead bins and dealing with upset or ill customers, they sometimes have to deal with violent or disorderly passengers, especially when attempting to enforce mask mandates. Some flight attendants are now vocalizing their concern with the latest change coming to Southwest Airlines, which they believe will make that job even harder (via CNN).

According to a statement the airline released on February 3, it plans to resume serving alcohol (in addition to cold and hot non-alcoholic drinks) on flights. The change in beverage options is set to take place on February 16. Though the airline has banned drinks for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is far from the first to reinstate alcoholic beverage service on flights. According to CNN, other airlines — like United and Delta — started serving alcohol in 2020 (for first class) and 2021 (for the main cabin). But that doesn't mean flight attendants at Southwest are ready for customers to have the ability to imbibe while in the air. Their union is even speaking out to educate and enlighten people to the reason they don't want the alcoholic drinks reinstated to the in-flight menu quite yet.

Alcohol can lead to more issues with passengers

According to Business Insider, the union president of TWU Local 556, Lyn Montgomery, explained that bringing alcohol back to flights is "unsafe and irresponsible" because it tends to lead to more incidents with passengers — especially when it comes to following the federal mask mandate. "We have adamantly and unequivocally informed management that resuming sales of alcohol while the mask mandate is in place has the great potential to increase customer non-compliance and misconduct issues," Montgomery said (via CNN).

Apparently, those who have been drinking on flights are more likely to display worse behavior and refuse to follow mandatory rules. Back in December 2021, the Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson said that even on flights where there was no alcohol service, drunk passengers were causing disruptions, mostly related to the mask mandate (via Bloomberg). And the reality of that behavior is far worse than you might expect — even after seeing videos of bad behavior from passengers posted to social media. CNN pointed out that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made the decision to skip lesser punishments like warnings and jump straight to more severe consequences in November 2021, such as fines or jail time, in an attempt to curb the unfortunate trend.

Still, some would rather see airlines continue to ban alcohol from flights for the time being, arguing that these harsher punishments aren't enough to mitigate the risk for flight attendants.