Southwest Airlines is bringing back alcoholic beverages to its in-flight service after almost two years, according to the airline’s chief of customer experience, who made the surprising news on Thursday.
Southwest had previously stated that onboard alcohol will not be available until late March or early April, but the Dallas-based carrier has changed its mind and plans to resume service on February 16.
At the start of the epidemic in March 2020, alcoholic beverages were removed as Southwest desperately tried to eliminate as many touchpoints as possible.
The airline had wanted to resume full beverages service in June 2021, but that plan was soon canceled after a flight attendant was brutally assaulted.
The resumption of alcoholic beverages inflight has been fought by Southwest’s flight attendant union, which is concerned that it may lead to more rowdy and disorderly behavior by drunk passengers.
Southwest has been encouraged by the TWU Local 556 union to do more to protect flight attendants, including limiting passenger access to alcohol.
Even though Southwest’s alcohol prohibition has been highlighted as one of the key drivers behind a pandemic-related rise in belligerent passenger conduct, disruptive events have continued.
Some travellers buy alcohol to take home from airport bars or bring their own alcohol onboard.
Meanwhile, most other American airlines have successfully reintroduced on-flight alcohol with no rise in rowdy passenger behavior.
“Customers have expressed a desire for more beverage options, so we’re delighted to restore additional on-board offerings as a part of the Southwest Hospitality that our Customers know and love,” commented Tony Roach, Southwest’s Vice President Customer Experience and Customer Relations.
Southwest is also extending the validity of drink coupons that were due to expire in 2020 or 2021 until the end of 2022 for customers who haven’t been able to utilize them for the past two years.
Southwest has previously stated that the alcohol prohibition would be in effect as long as the federal face mask regulation was in place.
The mandate was first enacted in January 2021, but it has since been extended numerous times, with the most recent extension set for March 18, 2022. However, it is very likely that it will be extended at least once more.