United Is Choosing a Very Weird Time to Reinstate Alcohol on Flights

With upwards of 5,000 in-flight incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration this year, do we really need hard liquor?

United Is Choosing a Very Weird Time to Reinstate Alcohol on Flights

As of this week, United Airlines has officially resumed the sale of hard liquor onboard flights in excess of 301 miles in the U.S., Canada and Latin American markets.

Last month, per a report from USA Today, the airline announced its intent to make available miniature bottles of liquor — in addition to beer, wine and hard seltzer, which was reintroduced in June 1 — on November 15, just ahead of the holiday season.

“The ability to offer a complete food and beverage menu is something that we know is important to our customers and we’re excited to continue to enhance our onboard service while keeping the safety of our employees and customers at the forefront of all we do,” United said in a statement to Fox Business News, adding that the decision was “heavily informed by feedback from both our customers and flight attendants.” 

But while those who enjoy the occasional inflight libation will rejoice, it’s admittedly a rather strange move for the airline. This year saw an unprecedented number of escalated in-flight incidents, largely between passengers and flight attendants, resulting in upwards 5,000 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Earlier this year, a Southwest flight attendant had three teeth broken in an altercation with a passenger who didn’t want to wear a seatbelt or stow her tray table. Just last week, another Southwest employee was hospitalized after she was assaulted by an unruly passenger at Dallas Love Field. Three weeks ago, a California-bound American Airlines flight to New York was diverted after a flight attendant sustained a concussion and facial injuries from an in-flight passenger attack. And while these are just a few of the worst incidents to date, they’re but three of hundreds in an ongoing pattern of criminal passenger behavior. In response, American and Southwest have postponed alcohol sales until at least mid-January 2022.

Most of the incidents have come as a result of disputes over masks, and while the consumption of alcohol isn’t explicitly indicated in all those reports, it stands to reason that incorporating hard liquor into an already chaotic environment doesn’t bode well for anyone. It also makes it a little difficult to believe that flight attendants were instrumental in making it happen.

With bi-weekly reports of flight attendants being threatened and abused by passengers onboard flights ongoing, 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.


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