Major airlines bar in-flight alcohol sales due to coronavirus

Needing to regain the confidence of travelers spooked by the coronavirus, a growing number of U.S. airlines are temporarily suspending their in-flight alcohol service in a move to limit human interaction.

The changes come as the flight attendants’ union called on the federal government to do more to ensure passengers wear face masks on planes and as airlines said there would be ramifications for people who refuse to heed public safety guidelines.

American Airlines confirmed that it has scaled back its food and beverage offerings to minimize contact between flight attendants and passengers. Alcohol sales are banned in aircraft main cabins, other than on long international flights. 

Delta Air Lines also confirmed that alcohol is banned on all of its domestic and international flights to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America, regardless of seating class. The move is a bid to pare down “to essential onboard food and beverage options in an effort to reduce physical touch points between customers and employees,” according to Delta.

Striving to limit interactions between crew and passengers, JetBlue Airways now offers customers pre-sealed bags with water and two snacks, while those buying its version of first-class seats are offered single-serve containers of beer and wine and pre-sealed meal boxes, the carrier explained. 

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Southwest also now limits snack and beverage service, temporarily suspending it for flights of less than 250 miles and offering cans of water with straws and a snack mix on longer flights, the airline said in a June 1 update on its website. 

Southwest modified the service in response to COVID-19 in March and “looks forward to restoring full, on-board service offerings once circumstances allow,” the carrier said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

European carriers including Easyjet and KLM, along with Asia’s Virgin Australia, have all reportedly taken similar steps in response to COVID-19.

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