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American Airlines Joins Southwest to Ban Alcohol on Flights

Date: May 29, 2021

By Sarah Al-Arshani, Business Insider

American Airlines joined Southwest Airlines and announced that they will continue to ban alcohol on flights throughout the summer to help curb a rise in unruly and sometimes violent passengers on board.

In ban will remain in effect through September 13, when the federal mask mandate for all planes, buses, and trains, is set to expire.

The ban comes after a passenger punched a flight attendant in the face, knocking 2 of her teeth out, on a Southwest flight from Sacramento to San Diego on Sunday.

"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 Insider.

"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."

Airlines had previously suspended many in-flight services on domestic flights after COVID-19 restrictions were eased to allow travel so that passengers would not have to remove their masks to eat or drink.

American had previously reinstated beverage services, which were first banned in March 2020, on their domestic premium cabins on May 1, and alcohol sales were supposed to resume on their main cabin on June 1.

"While we appreciate that customers and crewmembers are eager to return to "normal," we will move cautiously and deliberately when restoring pre-COVID practices," Byrnes said in the memo. "We also recognize that alcohol can contribute to atypical behavior from customers onboard and we owe it to our crew not to potentially exacerbate what can already be a new and stressful situation for our customers," Byrnes said.

On Friday, Southwest said it will not resume alcohol services on board until the end of July, following the incident.

"We realize this decision may be disappointing for some customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the safety and comfort of all customers and crew onboard," Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said.

In a news release, the Federal Aviation Administration said that since January 1, 2020, they received about 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including around 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to wear a face mask.

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