American and Southwest airlines postpone plans to resume serving alcohol on flights

Since January 1, the US Federal Aviation Administration has received about 2,500 reports of unruly behaviour by passengers

Two major airlines, American and Southwest, have postponed plans to resume serving alcohol on flights in an effort to stop a surge of unruly and sometimes violent behaviour by passengers who have shoved, struck and yelled at flight attendants.

Both airlines announced the policies this week after the latest assault was captured on a widely watched video that showed a woman punching a flight attendant in the face on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego on Sunday.

The flight attendant lost two teeth in the assault, according to her union, and the passenger, who was identified by police as Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, has been charged with battery causing serious bodily injury. She has also been barred for life from flying Southwest.

Since January 1, the US Federal Aviation Administration has received about 2,500 reports of unruly behaviour by passengers, including about 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply with a federal mandate that they wear masks on planes.

The agency said it began receiving reports of a “significant increase” in disruptive behaviour in flights starting in late 2020.

“We have just never seen anything like this,” Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said during an online meeting with federal aviation officials on Wednesday. “We’ve never seen it so bad.”

Southwest Airlines issued a statement on Friday citing the “recent uptick industrywide of incidents in-flight involving disruptive passengers” as it announced that it had paused plans to resume serving alcohol on flights.

“We realise this decision will be disappointing for some customers, but we feel it to be the right decision now in the interest of safety and comfort of all onboard,” the statement said.

American Airlines said alcohol sales, which had been suspended in the main cabin since late March 2020, would remain suspended till September 13, when a federal mandate requiring passengers to wear masks on airplanes, buses and trains is set to expire.

In a memo, American said it recognised that “alcohol can contribute to atypical behaviour from customers onboard and we owe it to our crew not to potentially exacerbate what can already be a new and stressful situation for our customers”. American said alcohol would continue to be served in first class and business class, but only during the flight and not before departure.

New York Times News Service

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