Will Airlines Permanently Ban Alcohol on Flights?

July 8, 2021


A return to the skies post (mostly?) Pandemic has hardly seen a return to normal on flights.

There's a record-setting occurrence of in-flight incidents this year, with the FAA saying 75% of the cases being flyers' refusal to wear masks.

But then there's alcohol.

Is Alcohol on Flights Partly to Blame for Increase in Unruly Behavior?

Air travel is rebounding in a huge way, but the U.S. carriers aren't celebrating...with champagne, that is.

3 of the largest U.S. airlines: American, Southwest and United...are either limiting alcohol on most flights or outright banning the booze.

Historically, there have been numerous incidents of violence and unruly behavior on flights where alcohol was the culprit. Recently, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant got her teeth knocked out after a verbal altercation with a disgruntled passenger. 

While it's unclear if alcohol was involved, a growing number seem to think that the airline industry should consider banning alcohol on flights:

Jeff Price, an aviation professor at MSU Denver and former assistant security director at Denver International Airport, said alcohol is often involved in cases of air rage. He said the addition of COVID-19 protocols to flights has made flight attendants’ jobs even harder, and alcohol can add to the problems.
“So now you have a political division going on... and now we’ve got to go deal with somebody who's being a jerk, occasionally sometimes they're being a jerk because they've had too much to drink,” Price said.
Limiting alcohol service on planes might also be good from a health standpoint. Dr. Lindsay “Shelley” Forbes, a fellow at CU School of Medicine said drinking at an altitude higher than what you’re accustomed to can have a different effect on the body.

Acting Drunk and Crazy is Just One of the Problems with Booze in the Air

Joe Cortez from Flyertalk points out that according to researchers consuming alcohol on a flight can enhance the effects not only of drunkenness, but dehydration and other symptoms:

Dealing with attitudes are just one issue with serving alcohol on aircraft. Researchers say that serving beer, wine and liquor at cruising altitude can also have negative effects as well, such as exacerbating the traditional signs of drunkenness, including headaches and dehydration.

As pointed out above, 3 of the 4 biggest carriers in the U.S. are not serving booze (Delta being the lone holdout).

It's starting to feel like booze's days in the air are numbered...

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