Airlines Ban Alcohol on Planes Due to COVID-19
Airlines are cutting alcohol from their service to prevent the spread of coronavirus. As air travel is starting again with countries re-opening up borders after COVID-19 lockdown measures, many airlines are implementing a ban on alcohol on planes as precautionary measures due to COVID-19. Alcohol-related problems have long been of significant concern for airlines.
British low-cost airline Easyjet, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and KLM the flagship airline of Netherlands have suspended serving alcohol in all flights. The UK’s flagship airline British Airways and America’s Delta Airlines have suspended serving alcohol in domestic and short distance flights. For example, Delta has eliminated all beverages on board for the foreseeable future aside from single-serve bottles of water. Glassware, ice, plastic cups and other open containers have all been scrapped. But the airline allows passengers to bring their own food and nonalcoholic beverages aboard, according to Washington Post reporting. Two exceptions are Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, which will still have alcohol available throughout the flight; and United, which continues to serve alcohol in sealed containers, although it has stopped offering ice, coffee, tea, and poured alcohol.
Airlines are emphasizing the reduction of “touch points” between passengers and airline staff as much as possible because the coronavirus can spread through surface contact. And beverage service is a major source of those touch points. Most airlines are also only offering water as a beverage to reduce the time passengers take off their face masks.
Banning alcohol is one measure to protect against COVID-19 implemented by airlines across the world. Other measures include mandatory face masks, pre-packed meals, offering sanitary items such as masks and hand sanitizer and new legislation against bad behavior on airplanes.
Long track record of alcohol-related problems on flights
Alcohol-related problems have long been of significant concern for airlines. Over the years, Movendi International has reported on different measures taken to curb alcohol issues.
According to IATA, the International Air Transport Association, alcohol use was found to be involved in 27% of cases of unruly behaviour in airlines.
But during the current public health crisis, with strict hygiene and physical distancing rules still in place, and likely to be instituted for the foreseeable future, passenger disciplin and passengers’ respect for instructions and advice from the crew are essential.
As recently as October 2019, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) announced a complete alcohol ban was “absolutely on the table” to address flight rage. Alcohol fueled flight rage had been increasing in recent years. The number of reported air rage incidents on flights across Europe had increased by a third between 2017 and 2018.
As Movendi International reported, also in the UK arrests of passengers suspected of being alcohol inebriated at UK airports and on flights had risen by 50% in a year. British police data showed, 387 intoxicated people were arrested in U.K. airports between February 2016 and February 2017; the comparable figure for 2015-2016 was 255 arrests.
Already in 2015, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) announced that due to the rise in flight attendant-reported incidents of intoxicated passengers causing problems, it instituted a mandatory alcohol beverage limit on flights within Europe.
[Alcohol use] can be a problem for security and we also want to make sure that all our other passengers are having a good time and not being disturbed by others,” a SAS official explained. SAS, which is owned by Denmark, Norway and Sweden carries about 30 million passengers per year and flies to almost 100 destinations.
At the time, SAS was following the lead of Ryanair, a low-cost airline. In April 2015, Ryanair prohibited passengers from bringing their own alcoholic beverages aboard the route between Glasgow Prestwick Airport and the party island of Ibiza in Spain.
Other airlines also put similar measures in place to curb alcohol-related problems. For example Jet2, another low-cost airline, announced a zero-tolerance approach to intoxicated or unruly passengers.
Washington Post: “Airlines are cutting alcohol to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” by Drew Jones