After flight attendants raised concerns that returning to pre-pandemic levels of inflight service would put them at risk of COVID-19 infection, Alaska Airlines will offer only one beverage service in the main cabin, regardless of flight length, and will eliminate fresh meals on medium-haul flights through the end of January 2022.
The Seattle-based carrier had previously dismissed concerns raised by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) about the rollback of pandemic-era safety measures, but a sharp increase in employee sickness as a result of the Omicron outbreak sweeping the United States appears to have prompted a change of heart.
Alaska Airlines announced last week that ‘record’ levels of employee sickness, combined with adverse weather, prompted it to cancel 10% of scheduled flights through January to allow the struggling carrier “time and space to discover our path forward together.”
Alaska Airlines will lower the number of pre-orders allowed on Transcom and Hawaii flights from 63 to just 42 every trip, in addition to cutting back on beverage offerings and eliminating fresh meals. Picnic packs from the carrier will no longer be available for pre-order, but a limited number will be available for purchase onboard.
All of the steps were taken from a list of recommendations submitted to the airline by AFA last month. The union claimed it had spent “hours upon hours” in meetings with management trying to persuade them to cut inflight service levels, but the airline had refused.
Jeffrey Peterson, president of the Alaska Airlines branch of the flight attendant union told members Alaska management appeared “profoundly out of touch with flight attendants” and that morale amongst flight attendants had hit the “lowest ever within recent memory”.
Flight attendants, according to Peterson, were asking for a service decrease to reduce the amount of time crew members had to contact passengers. Reduced service levels, according to the union, would offer passengers less of a justification to remove their face masks.
Air New Zealand cut inflight service on domestic flights entirely last week so that passengers wouldn’t have to drop or remove their face masks for the duration of the flight. Even though Air New Zealand’s longest domestic trip is a little over two hours long, customers will still receive a small snack as they disembark.
Finnair was warned at the end of this week that it could no longer sell alcoholic beverages on domestic flights after 5 p.m. since it was found to be subject to the same regulatory regulations as restaurants, bars, and cafés. After 5 p.m., all alcoholic beverages must be removed from airline lounges at Helsinki airport.
Alcohol bans of varied degrees are still in effect on American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, because to concerns that, when combined with the federal face mask regulation, drunk passengers could become rowdy.