American and Southwest airlines postpone serving alcohol after in-flight assault
Two major US airlines -American and Southwest - have postponed plans to resume serving alcohol on flights to stop a surge of "unruly and violent" behaviour by passengers, who have shoved, struck and yelled at flight attendants.
Both airlines announced the policies this past week after the latest assault was captured on a viral video that showed a woman punching a flight attendant in the face on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento, California, to San Diego on Sunday, The New York Times reported.
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.
Since January 1, the Federal Aviation Administration has received about 2,500 reports of unruly behaviour by passengers, including about 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply with a federal mandate that they wear masks on planes.
The agency said that in the past it did not track reports of unruly passengers because the numbers had been fairly consistent over the years, but that it began receiving reports of a "significant increase" in disruptive behaviour starting in late 2020, reported further.
"We have just never seen anything like this," Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said during an online meeting with federal aviation officials Wednesday. "We've never seen it so bad."
Southwest Airlines issued a statement on May 28 citing the "recent uptick industry-wide of incidents in flight involving disruptive passengers" as it announced that it had paused plans to resume serving alcohol on flights.
"We realise this decision will be disappointing for some customers, but we feel it to be the right decision now in the interest of safety and comfort of all onboard," the statement said.
Likewise, American Airlines announced a similar policy on May 29. It said that alcohol sales, which had been suspended in the main cabin since late March 2020, would remain suspended through September 13, when a federal mandate requiring passengers to wear masks on airplanes, buses and trains is set to expire.
In a statement, the Airline said it recognised that "alcohol can contribute to atypical behaviour 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."
"Over the past week we've seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft," said the memo, which was issued to American's flight attendants Saturday. "Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews."
American said that alcohol would continue to be served in first class and business class, but only during the flight and not before departure, as per The New York Times.