Air travel over the last year has been fraught with additional safety regulations and fears of illness in the COVID-19 era, but as vaccinations help bring the pandemic to an end the return to the skies for some has been marred by poor passenger behavior on flights. And now some airlines are apparently trying to combat bad behavior by banning alcohol altogether.
According to the New York Times, two airlines are banning alcohol on flights, or more specifically extending a ban on alcohol from earlier in the COVID era. But the reason this time is that passengers acting out on flights, oftentimes ending violently and harming people working for airlines. On Saturday, reports circulated that Southwest and American Airlines will not serve alcohol to passengers in future flights.
Both airlines announced the policies this week after the latest assault was captured on a widely watched video that showed a woman punching a flight attendant in the face on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego on Sunday.
The flight attendant lost two teeth in the assault, according to her union, and the passenger, who was identified by the police as Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, has been charged with battery causing serious bodily injury. She has also been barred for life from flying Southwest, the airline said.
As the Times report indicates, cases of disturbances on airlines have risen dramatically in 2021, in part because of disputes about mask mandates but also for other reasons, often ending in violence. The Federal Aviation Administration has seen about 2,500 reports of “unruly behavior” since January 1, about 1,900 of those failure to comply with mask mandates. One of those instances you can see below, a viral video that in part seems to have helped institute the policy changes.
Video obtained by CBS News shows the moment a Southwest Airlines flight attendant was punched by a passenger after asking her to keep her seat belt fastened during a flight from Sacramento to San Diego Sunday. https://t.co/gQusevodYC pic.twitter.com/oOYvPdwCFj
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 27, 2021
As CNN reported, the change comes amid internal communications between Southwest and its employees about the rash of violent incidents between passengers and staff.
“Flight attendants are on the front lines every day not only ensuring our customers’ safety, but are also calming fears, answering questions, and enforcing policies like federally-required face masks,” said Brady Byrnes, managing director of flight service at American, in a memo to flight attendants obtained by CNN.
“Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft,” the memo said. “Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews.”
Despite many mask mandates loosening for vaccinated Americans in states around the country, rules for mask wearing have not changed on flights and in many airports. The CDC recommendations, despite allowing vaccinated Americans to go maskless in most indoor settings, do not include on airplanes, which has clearly been a point of contention for some. Southwest said its policy of not selling alcohol on flights will last until September 13, which coincides with the listed end of the TSA’s current mask mandate on airplanes.