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United Re-Introduces Alcohol to Flights Over 200 Miles

Date: July 2, 2021

In Wednesday’s edition of Inflight Services Weekly, United announced the upcoming expansion of the sale of alcohol on flights over 200 miles and will add contactless payment to support the sale of alcoholic beverages.  Specifically, effective July 1: beer, wine and hard seltzer will be available on flights over 200 miles. In addition, management will add liquor for purchase (as well as complimentary) on Premium Trans-Con and Hawaii bound flights.

We want you to know that United management made the decision to return alcohol to the passenger cabin based on reporting data or, as may be more appropriate, the absence of specific data that would support our assertion that returning alcohol to the passenger cabin at this time is, perhaps, not the best idea.

This action has impact on Flight Attendants as well as for the passengers for whom we are responsible.  While it is accurate that we, as Flight Attendants, have the responsibility to ensure alcohol is responsibly provided, over the past several months we’ve been dealing with a number of other issues including instances where passengers have been found to be drinking from their own supply.

In order for us to ensure that we are meeting our obligation for the responsible distribution of alcohol on the aircraft, we must be certain to report all instances where alcohol becomes problematic.  This includes reporting instances where:

  • Passengers drink from their own supply, or
  • Alcohol provided or made available onboard the aircraft and,
  • Those instances where passengers who appear to be intoxicated attempt to board the aircraft.

To be clear, AFA has consistently opposed the expansion of onboard alcohol sales during this time.  We have made a number of recommendations, all intended to responsibly reintroduce alcohol to the mix in the passenger cabin.  Some of these have been adopted while others have not.

Flight Attendant IOR reporting, which includes a copy to AFA, is critical in providing AFA with the ability to document issues/concerns related to alcohol while understanding that these issues need not always begin with what we serve on the aircraft. 

In some instances, we are aware that passengers are consuming alcohol purchased from restaurants in the vicinity of the gate room and, at times, attempt to board the aircraft with liquor obtained on airport property.   This is not permissible and any such instances should absolutely be included in our IOR reporting effort.  In addition, we should well document instances where:

  • Passengers attempt to board the aircraft and present the appearance of being intoxicated
  • Passengers drinking alcohol they brought onboard the aircraft
  • Issues associated with alcohol provided onboard the aircraft, whether it’s complimentary or for sale.

Safety is our highest priority and reporting instances where alcohol has created challenges for us on the aircraft must be reported in order for us to have these issues addressed.

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