United Is Lifting This Major Flight Restriction, Starting Nov. 15
You might finally be able to do this the next time you're on a plane.
You're probably well aware that there are many things you're just not allowed to do on a plane. Certain flight restrictions, like not being able to have large amounts on liquids in your carry-on, have been in place for years, but there were also a handful of new bans set over the last two years amid the COVID pandemic. Flying without a mask, for instance, has not been allowed since early 2020, and even booking a middle seat on many airlines was prohibited for some time. But now, United Airlines has decided to lift one major flight restriction for its passengers. Read on to find out what you will be able to do again next month when flying United.
United Airlines is lifting its restriction on hard liquor next month.
If you're looking to have a drink on your next flight, you just might be in luck. United Airlines will start selling miniature bottles of hard liquor again on its flights, starting Nov. 15, USA Today reported. According to the news outlet, this in-flight alcohol service will be offered in economy class on flights in domestic, Canada, and Latin markets that are at least 301 miles long.
"Our decision to bring back liquor was heavily informed by feedback from both our customers and employees," a United spokesperson told The Points Guy. "With travel demand on the rise and the many safety protocols we have in place, particularly with our suite of contactless payment solutions, now felt like the right time to expand our inflight beverage menu."
United had already began reintroducing wine and beer sales on some flights.
Most major U.S. airlines suspended their alcohol beverage service early in 2020, in part to reduce opportunities for passengers to remove their masks, but also to prevent flight attendants from having to interact with passengers more than absolutely necessary.
On Nov. 17, 2020, the airline began selling beer and wine in economy, only on flights from its Denver hub to eight major destinations, including Los Angeles and Boston, per USA Today. Now, as of at least September, United says customers "in economy cabins can purchase beer, wine, and hard seltzer on most domestic flights over one hour," according to Forbes.
Some airlines will still be banning alcohol on flights.
Not all airlines are ready to pull back their alcohol restrictions. In August, American Airlines announced that it would not be resuming alcohol sales in its economy class until mid-January of 2022. And in September, USA Today reported that Southwest Airlines had postponed its plans to bring back alcohol sales until at least January, as well.
Both American and Southwest's expected removal of alcohol restrictions are tied to the federal mask mandate, which is currently set to be lifted on Jan. 18. It's unclear if that mandate will in fact be lifted, however, as the government has already extended the date twice.
"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, a senior manager of inflight ops, initiatives and design for Southwest, said in an internal memo sent to flight attendants in early September, per USA Today.
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There has been a substantial increase in unruly passenger incidents during the pandemic.
Some of these recent extensions were not solely about mask-wearing. Southwest scrapped plans to bring back alcohol sales in late June after a May altercation between a passenger and a flight attendant resulted in the Southwest attendant being sent to the hospital with missing teeth and other injuries to her face.
"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. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reported nearly 5,000 unruly passenger incidents on planes since just the beginning of 2021. According to the agency, 72 percent of these incidents were related to mask requirements.
"We've never before seen aggression and violence on our planes like we have in the past five months. Already, reports of these incidents in less than five months are more than 20 times the amount in a typical year. But these are just the incidents reported," Sara Nelson, president of Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, told CBS News in June. "The constant combative attitude over wearing masks is exhausting and sometimes horrific for the people who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic for over a year."
But amid its move to restore hard liquor sales, United claims the risk of these kinds of incidents have diminished for its airline. "The incidence of unruly passengers is very low compared to our number of customers overall and is also low in comparison to what other U.S. carriers are seeing," a carrier spokesperson told The Points Guy.