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Alaska Airlines Is Getting Rid of This on Flights, Effective Immediately

The latest round of changes will affect passengers for the rest of January.

After nearly two years of major disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline industry is now grappling with a fresh set of challenges presented by the Omicron variant. Since before the holidays, a surge of cases brought on by the viral offshoot has created chaos as widespread flight cancelations have left travelers delayed or stranded in airports nationwide. Now, Alaska Airlines has announced that it's getting rid of one thing on all of its flights in response to the renewed risks Omicron poses for its staff. Read on to see what the carrier is dropping for the time being.

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Alaska Airlines is dropping fresh meals and all but one beverage service on flights for the rest of January.

A flight attendant grabbing a plastic water bottle during service on a flight

In response to concerns from its flight attendants, Alaska Airlines has announced that it will be cutting back beverage service to one per flight, no matter the duration, travel news outlet Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports. The carrier also says it's dropping fresh meals on medium-haul flights and will be reducing the number of pre-order meals available on transcontinental flights and legs to Hawaii from 63 to 42. The company clarified that both changes would be in effect for the rest of January.

The company said the changes would help limit flight crews' exposure to passengers.

A flight attendant wearing a face mask onboard an empty plane

The latest changes were selected from a list proposed by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) last month to limit the time flight crews are directly interacting with passengers, Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports. They also come amid what the company calls an "unprecedented" number of staff call-outs due to infection or exposure to COVID-19, which has led to personnel shortages.

In a statement last month, Jeffrey Peterson, president of the Alaska Airlines branch of the flight attendant union, told members that the airline's management appeared to be "profoundly out of touch with flight attendants" and that morale among crew members had hit the "lowest ever within recent memory" as they pushed for changes they saw as necessary for protection. The union also argued that the proposed food and drink service changes would give passengers less of an excuse to remove their masks for long periods of time while they eat or drink.

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The carrier also recently announced it was canceling 10 percent of its flights for the rest of January.

man sleeping at the boarding gate

But it's not just in-flight services that are being affected by Omicron. On Jan. 6, the airline announced that it would be canceling 10 percent of its flights for the rest of January as it struggled with staff shortages amid the surge in infections. The company says that the move will give management the flexibility to deal with current COVID-related challenges and to prepare for the coming months.

"It's a smart move," Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research, told travel news outlet The Points Guy. "Given the current airline operating environment where so many employees are out sick because of COVID-19, Alaska's decision to cut its flying…is understandable."

Other airlines have changed their in-flight services due to the pandemic.

Drinking on plane

Alaska Airlines isn't the only carrier to have amended its in-flight services amid COVID. On Dec. 31, Air New Zealand announced that it would be altogether dropping in-flight food and beverage service on its domestic hauls so that passengers could wear face coverings for the entire duration of the flight. "Masks are one of the key ways to limit transmission, so making this change will enable our customers' masks to be kept on throughout the flight and ensure they are as safe as possible while onboard an Air New Zealand aircraft," Leanne Geraghty, Chief Customer and Sales Officer for Air New Zealand, said in the statement.

American Airlines and Southwest have also had bans on the sale of alcohol during flights in place since last year. The carriers have both previously stated that the policy would remain in place through at least Jan. 18 in accordance with federal mask mandate requirements.

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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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