A column by Lindsay Rogers at InsideHook argues that United is choosing a “very weird time” to reinstate alcohol on flights. Quite the contrary, I think United is choosing a very good time to bring back its full liquor selection.
All Alcohol Returns On United Airlines – Why This Will Promote Good Behavior Onboard
Rogers laments that United is reinstating the sale of hard liquor on flights over 301 miles this week, arguing “it stands to reason that incorporating hard liquor into an already chaotic environment doesn’t bode well for anyone.”
She counts up a number of recent incidents of bad behavior, all of which we’ve covered on Live and Let’s Fly. Finally, she concludes:
“United’s decision will no doubt open the airline up to questions surrounding passenger and flight-attendant safety. And honestly, we probably don’t need to give the same people perpetrating those incidents another excuse to remove their masks on the plane, either.”
While I am sure Rogers is well-intentioned, I wonder if it struck her as odd that so few headline-grabbing incidents of bad behavior have happened on United. None of the incidents she counted up did. As United has restored food and alcohol onboard, its number of disturbances have dropped.
Meanwhile, it is often American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, the two airlines that have refused to restore liquor and food sales onboard, that continue to experience poor behavior.
We’ve discussed before what may be causing this discrepancy, but I do want posit once again a theory very different than that of Rogers: the reason for fewer incidents on airlines like Delta and United is precisely because passengers are actually treated as human beings, not threats to public health.
Selling alcohol and food onboard has the distinct advantage of distracting passengers from the fact they are cooped up in a closed environment with little room to stretch out. It also discourages people from bringing their own illicit alcohol onboard and helps to control portion size when consumed.
So yes, I’m fully in favor of the return of alcohol sales onboard, and not simply for the drink itself, but because it leads to better behavior onboard.
As we approach the holiday season, I commend United for bringing back the sale of liquor and food onboard. It’s not only an important step toward returning to normalcy, but a great way to mitigate poor behavior onboard.
I suspect that if Southwest or American simply reintroduced food and drink onboard, we’d see a big drop in instances of bad behavior onboard.
image: United Airlines