American Airlines won’t offer booze in economy until September, points to violent incidents

American Airlines won’t resume alcohol sales in its main cabin until September.

An internal memo to flight attendants Saturday says economy passengers will have to wait until at least Sept. 13 before they can order a mid-flight drink. The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline had previously announced plans to end its pause on alcohol sales in the economy cabin this summer but hadn’t set a date.

The federal face mask requirement for airplanes, airports and other modes of transportation currently runs through Sept. 13. 

Alcohol sales in American Airlines’ main cabins were first suspended in late March 2020 to limit interactions between passengers and flight attendants amid the COVID pandemic. The decision to continue no alcohol sales through most of the summer comes after numerous accounts of unruly passengers in recent months, including one incident in which a Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth after allegedly being assaulted by a passenger. 

“Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft. Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews,” Vice President of Flight Service Brady Byrnes said in the memo. “While we appreciate that customers and crewmembers are eager to return to ‘normal,’ we will move cautiously and deliberately when restoring pre-COVID practices.”

Uptick in unruly passengers: Southwest Airlines passenger who allegedly struck flight attendant charged with felony battery

So what does that mean for passengers? 

Pre-departure beverage services remain suspended in the premium cabin (first and business class), but alcohol will continue to be offered in flight. Snack baskets will return in the premium cabin and will be offered on flights between 500 and 899 miles. 

In the main cabin, nonalcoholic beverages like canned drinks, juice, coffee and water will be available upon request for flights under 250 miles and will be included on longer flights. 

Southwest Airlines also ditched plans to resume alcohol sales this summer after the uptick in violent incidents with passengers. The airline did not say when it plans to resume alcohol sales. 

Pause on booze extended: Southwest Airlines postpones return of alcohol sales after incidents with unruly passengers

Other airlines have already brought alcohol back to some degree. Discounters Spirit and Allegiant have been selling alcohol for months, and Alaska Airlines resumed alcohol sales in the main cabin on May 19. United plans to start selling beer, wine and White Claw hard seltzer in economy on June 1. Delta has been serving alcohol in regular economy since mid-April and will introduce a custom beer from SweetWater Brewing during Memorial Day weekend.

Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson

Southwest Airlines and other airlines repeatedly remind passengers to keep their masks on during the flight except when briefly eating or drinking. (Photo: Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY)

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