Flight attendants previously told Insider the pandemic made passengers more aggressive.
For one Los Angeles-based flight attendant, not serving alcohol on board was the best part of working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines reduced interaction between crew members and passengers by limiting in-flight snack and drink options - one of those changes being getting rid of alcoholic beverages.
Delta and American Airlines, for instance, stopped offering alcohol to economy passengers on domestic flights beginning the summer of 2020. Southwest and American reported an increase in passengers drinking their own booze on board, a move banned by the Federal Aviation Administration that can result in fines of up to $11,000.
But the LA-based flight attendant isn't in any rush to bring alcohol back on board as travel rebounds following pandemic lows, despite her passengers still asking for drinks.
"When we have problems that escalate, they would be escalated ten times more if they were fueled by alcohol," the flight attendant told Insider. She and other flight attendants Insider spoke to for this article wished to remain anonymous so they could speak without fear of retaliation.
Now, many airlines are extending the ban on booze. Southwest, for instance, announced it would not resume alcohol service until the end of July due to a recent surge in in-flight disruptions by passengers. United announced it would only offer beer, wine, and hard seltzer on flights longer than 800 miles, and American has suspended alcohol in the main cabin altogether.
Delta, however, resumed serving limited alcohol in the main cabin in mid-April after suspending the service during the pandemic.
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our people and customers, and as such, we will not tolerate any unsafe behavior," a Delta spokesperson told Insider. "We are confident in the robust set of procedures and support systems we have in place and do not plan to remove or adjust alcohol service at this time."
Flight attendants say alcohol fuels already tense interactions about mask mandates
Flight attendants previously told Insider the COVID-19 pandemic made passengers more aggressive with them due to differences over mask policies. Airlines have banned thousands of passengers for violating onboard mask policies, and the Federal Aviation Administration proposed fines of more than $100,000 against four airline passengers accused of unruly behavior towards crew members.
Daz, a Las Vegas-based flight attendant for a major carrier, said eating and drinking on board made it more difficult for him to enforce mask policies. He said some passengers would wear masks incorrectly under the guise of slowly eating and drinking.
"Those are the things that irritate me because I can't really dictate to you how to eat and drink your food," Daz told Insider. "That's definitely an annoying part of it, the whole mask compliance and people kind of using it to work the system a little bit."
The FAA proposed a $15,000 penalty against one JetBlue Airlines passenger who hit and yelled obscenities to a flight attendant after consuming champagne from a first-class passenger, according to a release. The FAA fined another passenger $15,000 for yelling at a flight attendant after consuming his own alcohol.
A spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants union said airlines have reported 20 times the number of unruly passenger reports in the last five months compared to reports over the last year.
"The incidents of violence on planes is out of control and alcohol is often a contributor," a spokesperson said. "The federal government should provide guidance to airlines and airports on pausing alcohol sales for a period of time."
A San Francisco-based flight attendant said she deplaned two passengers in the last year and a half due to them not abiding by federal mask mandates. She said all of the instances where passengers got overly aggressive about the mask policies were when they had been drinking.
"I think that a lot of people are not happy about having to wear the mask," she said. "In my opinion, the only time it's been a problem is someone who has also been drinking."