After an escalation of in-flight abuse against flight attendants including a horrific incident in which a flight attendant lost two teeth, Southwest Airlines will not resume alcohol sales next month as planned. Is this a good or a bad move?
Good Or Bad? Southwest Airlines Suspends Resumption Of Alcohol Sales
Southwest has “made the decision to re-evaluate the restart of alcohol service on board,” based upon objections from TWU Local 556, the union representing Southwest flight attendants, and the objective rise in the number of attacks.
Good: Alcohol-Related Abuse Cannot Occur Without Alcohol
On the plus side, alcohol has been historically tied to poor in-flight behavior. Over the years we’ve seen many alochol-fueled incidents onboard that have resulted in poor behavior as well as passenger or flight attendant abuse.
Suspending the sales of alcohol onboard will eliminate the risk that onboard sales will fuel misbehavior.
Bad: Alcohol Still Available In Terminals, Punishes Everyone, Has Not Even Been Linked To Most Recent Incidents
I find myself, however, more in the “bad” camp. What I’ve noticed is that passengers determined to drink…will drink. If “thirsty” Southwest passengers knows there will be no alcohol onboard, they will drink up at the bar prior to the flight. I’ve witnessed it. It absolutely happens.
And if they are surprised to find no alcohol onboard, that may put them in a very foul mood, making them more prone to misbehavior, especially if they are alcohol dependent.
Then there’s the idea that alcohol, if used responsibly, is a good thing that helps to calm people down and make flights pass quicker. While alcohol may cause a bad reaction in a small number of passengers, most who consume alcohol onboard continue to act very responsibly (and some would argue even more responsibly).
Finally, we must ask the larger question of why there has been a huge upsurge in poor behavior recently. Is it the masks? Is it lockdown fatigue? Perhaps the lack of onboard food or beverage sales?
I’m firmly in the “let’s get back to it” camp for most areas of life and commerce, and restoring onboard sales of food and drinks, including alcohol, seems to me like a reasonable step a this point. Masks should be voluntary for vaccinated passengers. We could see that the resumption of “normalcy” in flying will lead to a marked decline in onboard disturbances.
Blaming a surge in disturbances onboard, Southwest Airlines will not restore alcohol sales as planned. I tend to think that is an overreaction and may actually contribute to the problem, but I’m also not much of a drinker and so the news won’t impact me personally. But sooner or later, airlines will have to return to the pre-pandemic service and I tend to think that is when passengers will finally calm down.