Cheers to a new rule: United Airlines relaxes beverage restrictions!
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines were forced to adapt their onboard beverage service to comply with federal mask-wearing requirements. For Southwest Airlines, this meant limiting choices to water, coffee, Coke, and Diet Coke, with passengers signaling their order by holding up a finger. The challenge arose when passengers had to briefly remove their masks to take a sip of their drink and then promptly replace them. However, mask-wearing became a contentious and political issue for some travelers, leading to discomfort with the enforced rules.
As a result, major airlines either scaled back alcohol sales or ceased them altogether to avoid confrontations with intoxicated passengers. While this decision may have affected the industry's profits, it was essential to protect flight attendants from increased violence and verbal harassment resulting from the enforcement of rules they had no control over.
United Airlines, for instance, suspended all alcohol sales during the pandemic and gradually reintroduced them, initially in premium cabins and then for coach/economy passengers. At that time, passengers were limited to one drink at a time to minimize mask removal and potential disturbances caused by alcohol consumption. However, as mask requirements and COVID-19 rules became history, United has now reverted to its pre-pandemic onboard drink rules, allowing passengers to order multiple alcoholic beverages at once.
The removal of mask rules eliminated a potential flashpoint for political conflicts onboard, easing the burden on flight attendants who have faced escalating violence from passengers. Despite the relaxation of restrictions, unruly passenger incidents continue to surge, with reports of such incidents increasing significantly from 2020 to 2021. In 2022, the number of incidents rose by 47%, surpassing the previous year's record, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by airlines in ensuring a safe and secure travel environment for all passengers and crew.
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