Will airlines ever really ban booze?

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On April 1, 2019, long before the splash-driven COVID-19 mask challenge, I wrote: “Full and out of control passengers become a real problem when they grope and attack flight attendants, fight against other passengers and air marshals, try to open the floating door in the middle the flight and try to get into the cockpit. April Fool’s Day-dated story title? “Should carriers consider banning alcohol on airplanes?”

Since then, the situation has not improved. Passengers released from ‘house arrest’ from COVID-19 have come to a standstill. A woman literally knocked his teeth out of a stewardess from the southwestern United States. Since February, U.S. airlines have referred more than 1,300 irregular passenger reports to the Federal Aviation Agency. Passengers have been detained on board, planes have turned around, police or the FBI have arrested or interrogated passengers. Delta has threatened expulsion from SkyMiles. That Washington Post primarily proposed a ban on alcohol despite 70 years of serving adult beverages, onbard?

Two years ago, it was an April Fool’s joke, which

  • On board alcohol is a precious benefit of flying First or Business Class – which pays the bills for most airlines.
  • Splashes can be both a pacifier and a source of profit in economics; that $ 7 built-in beer can cost the airline a dollar.
  • Drinks (in moderation) can help passengers get through the day’s flight conditions.

But bad behavior has recently driven Southwest and the U.S. to temporarily curtail (not “ban”) the sale of alcohol. Southwest, like other U.S. airlines, suspended all onboard service in the early days of the pandemic. Social distance and limiting the contact between flight attendants and passengers was the idea. Temporary termination of flight service may have helped – it is assumed that airlines do does not be large COVID vectors.

Southwest has slowly returned to serving snacks and drinks to passengers. However, “after an increase in incidents that traveled into the industry and involved disruptive passengers, we stopped previously announced plans to resume alcohol service on board.” Southwest does not currently have a timeline for “full recovery of pre-pandemic service on board”, ie. alcohol.

Such incidents, as Henry H. Harteveldt, president / travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group puts it, are “why we can not have nice things.”

In American, a note to flight crews said: “We recognize that alcohol can contribute to atypical behavior from customers on board, and we do not owe it to our crew to potentially aggravate what may already be a new and stressful situation for our customers … U.S. suspended alcohol sales in the main cabin at the end of March 2020, and this service will remain suspended until September 13th. ”

Not coincidentally, September 13 is the date the FAA has said the mandate for the flight mask ends. Unfortunately, as many states have already dropped mask mandates, it could lead to a long hot summer aboard airlines.

Americans’ restriction on alcohol service may be more controversial than Southwest, where no customers are served alcohol until the ‘break’ ends. But on American premium cabins, customers can get “a free drink at the pointed end of the plane,” as Harteveldt puts it.

Unfortunately, this lives into current concerns about “social inequality.” ONE Bloomberg statement claims that “air anger” is not “about alcohol or shrinking legroom” but is actually caused by class warfare. The story goes that an academic study from 2016 showed that “the presence of a first-class section made it 3.84 times more likely that someone in economy class would trade out.”

“We’re all been in the cave for too long, and when you come out, it’s the master of the flies,” said Bryan Del Monte, president of the aviation agency. Flying over the past year, senior flights told him, “We are trying to reduce people who get bumped and upset by the mask requirement.”

His modest proposal to curb alcohol-related incidents: cutting drinks. “Catering is a big price that airlines really hate. With less catering, it is a simple way to increase revenue per. Flight. ”

Del Monte says service standards are already low. “Passengers say ‘Oh my God, I have a whole can of soda.'” He notes that smoking is long gone and airlines have banned emotional safety animals so alcohol can go too.

“Airlines are looking for ways to pull costs out of the supply chain. On domestic flights, you can remove alcohol and cite passenger safety. It’s like the COVID-19 school year; it is clear that Zoom school is not the same as personal instruction, but I did not see many colleges that gave reimbursement. The airline has been using this strategy for years and providing service where you get less and less for the same price. ”

Although some airlines (such as Emirates International and JetBlue and Alaska in the domestic market) try to differentiate themselves based on food and beverages, food from airlines remains an important part of jokes, and cost is the key. Harteveldt says, “Jet Blue switched from coke to Pepsi because coke was too expensive.”

Whether alcohol service is a passenger facility or a profit center is less clear. If a case of Corona beer sells for $ 24 and an airline sells a bottle for $ 6, it can seem like a 500% profit. But most of the food and alcohol for the airlines is provided by catering companies. A study from September 2020 showed that “the global market for catering services in aircraft is expected to reach DKK 22.4 billion. Dollars by 2025 driven by the increase in air passenger traffic and the consequent increase in demand for food from the airline. ” That ResearchAndMarkets.com study claimed increasing popularity of gourmet catering ”is a competitive strategy for differentiating services among airlines. ”

While alcohol may not be as important to airlines as petroleum, there may be gold in the bottom of the bottle. MEL Magazine interviewed Ajai Ammachathram, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska’s School of Nutrition and Health Sciences. He estimated the gross profit from the sale of alcohol at more than 50 percent, citing the captured audience. “I compare to selling booze on another flight popcorn and such in a movie theater. The thing about the cinema is that you go there to relax, but I do not think anyone will say that about the flying experience. ”

Aviation analyst Helane Becker of Cowen says, “I have never seen revenue numbers for this segment. I suppose there is profit there, but I’m not sure. “Would passengers accept an alcohol ban? She says, “If people persist in drinking and shopping, the solution may not be to have alcohol available. It is unacceptable that anyone would think of hitting a flight attendant on board a plane. ”

But would ending the service motivate passengers to smuggle booze on board, either in their hand luggage or in the bloodstream? Pilots are taught to keep an eye on signs of intoxication on board. If a passenger is drunk at the gate, they may be denied boarding.

“Flight attendants get a lot of training in how to handle troubled passengers, but they do not want confrontations. If they smell alcohol, they can suggest coffee. Or add a little more ice or water to dilute the drink. Or less spirits, ”says Harteveldt. “An airplane is not a flying beam. It is a shared communication. And rule number one for that plane is safety. ”

Nevertheless, he says, “If airline A does not say alcohol to anyone, airline B says we still have booze.”

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