Major Airlines Are Banning This One Thing on All Flights

You won't be able to do this mid-flight on some carriers until at least 2022.

The COVID pandemic has brought about many changes to air travel, including everything from universal mask mandates to changing the way we board planes to allow for more social distancing. Some policies have changed over time, such as keeping middle seats empty or stopping food and beverage service. But now, some major airlines are banning one specific thing during flights to keep everyone safe. Read on to see what you won't be seeing in the cabin for at least the rest of 2021.

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Southwest Airlines is banning the sale of alcohol on flights until 2021.

southwest airplane flying

It will be a while longer before you can kick back with a cocktail on some major airlines. In a memo sent to flight attendants on Sept. 10, Southwest Airlines said it would not be restarting the sale of alcoholic beverages on board its planes, USA Today reports. The company says that the recent decision by officials to extend the current federal mask mandate for all passengers on airplanes and in airports influenced the decision to further delay the return of drink service.

Representatives with the company said it would likely keep the current freeze on alcohol sales in place for at least the rest of the year. "With the mask mandate being extended to January 18, 2022, there are no current plans to bring back alcohol prior to January 2022," Randall Miller, senior manager of inflight ops, initiatives, and design for Southwest Airlines, said in the memo.

The extended alcohol ban is also the result of a spike in incidents involving disruptive passengers.

Woman with protective mask in a plane
evrim ertik / iStock

This isn't the first time that Southwest has extended its ban on the sale of alcohol. After announcing in May that the airline would resume serving in-flight beer, wine, and cocktails by late June, a violent attack from an unruly passenger that sent a flight attendant to the hospital led executives to postpone the return of boozy beverages.

"Given the recent uptick in industry-wide incidents of passenger disruptions in-flight, we have made the decision to pause the previously announced restart of alcohol service onboard," Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said at the time. "We realize this decision may be disappointing for some customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the safety and comfort of all customers and crew onboard."

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American Airlines has also announced that it will continue banning the sale of alcohol until 2022.

SANTA ANA/CALIFORNIA - AUG. 17, 2015: American Airlines Airbus 319-132 commercial jet departs from John Wayne International Airport in Santa Ana, California, USA

Southwest isn't the only major airline pushing back its ban on in-flight alcoholic beverages. On Aug. 19, American Airlines announced that it would be extending its own suspension of alcohol sales through Jan. 18. While travelers in first and business classes can still imbibe, the rules affect all passengers in the main cabin.

Besides the extension of the federal mask mandate, the airline has also grappled with an increase in incidents involving disruptive passengers that in part prompted the company to hold off on bringing booze back. "We are doing all we can to help create a safe environment for our crew and customers onboard our aircraft," American Airlines' senior manager of flight service policies Stacy Frantz said in a recent note to staff, as obtained by Simple Flying.

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You may even notice some new alcohol restrictions before you take off.

A girl drinks beer in the airport's cafe-bar and waits for her flight. A girl drinks beer in a cafe and looks into the phone.

Besides not being able to order your adult beverage of choice once wheels are up, you may begin to notice some changes next time you order your pre-flight Bloody Mary. Due to the unprecedented surge in incidents involving disorderly flyers, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sent a letter to the administrators of major airports across the U.S. in early August in an effort to stop establishments from allowing for "to-go" alcoholic beverages that travelers can carry around the terminal and potentially onto their flights.

"As the number of passengers traveling has increased, so has the number of unruly and unsafe behavior incidents on planes and in airports," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson wrote in the Aug. 3 letter. "The FAA adopted a Zero-Tolerance policy toward this behavior on airplanes earlier this year, and we are taking the strongest possible action within our legal authority. But we need your help."

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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