American Airlines is extending its suspension of in-flight alcohol service until September following reports of unruly passengers aboard other airlines.
The decision was announced in an internal memo on Saturday, one day after Southwest Airlines banned a passenger accused of attacking a flight attendant and knocking out two of her teeth.
“Flight attendants are on the front lines every day not only ensuring our customers’ safety, but are also calming fears, answering questions, and enforcing policies like federally-required face masks,” the memo read. “Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft.”
Alcohol will be offered in first and business classes, according to the memo.
“Over the past week we’ve seen some of these stressors create deeply disturbing situations on board aircraft,” the company said in the memo. “Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or mistreatment of our crews.”
On Friday, Southwest Airlines announced that it would not resume alcohol service following an uptick in passenger misconduct across the country. Airlines have reported 2,500 incidents of unruly passengers in 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration announced earlier this week. That number includes at least 1,900 cases in which passengers refused to wear face masks.
The agency sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior in a typical year. This year, unruly passengers have been fined up to $15,000 for berating or physically attacking flight attendants and distracting flight crews, including pilots, from their duties.
Last weekend, witnesses aboard a Southwest flight from Sacramento to San Diego told police that a 28-year-old passenger hit a flight attendant during a confrontation. A statement from Southwest said she had “repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing.”
Lyn Montgomery, the president of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, wrote in a letter Monday that the flight attendant was “seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth.”
Paramedics took the flight attendant to a hospital for treatment. Her alleged attacker was arrested and charged with battery causing serious bodily injury.