Drinking

No Sneaking Booze on the Motherf**ckin' Plane

First-class passengers can buy alcoholic drinks on American Airlines, but they should NOT use that empty Starbucks cup to pass one off to a friend in the main cabin.
Photo Courtesy of Susan Thomas
First-class passengers can buy alcoholic drinks on American Airlines, but they should NOT use that empty Starbucks cup to pass one off to a friend in the main cabin.
Flying has changed vastly since the beginning of 2019. From pandemic flight restrictions to mask requirements to alcohol bans and passenger violence, the flying experience seems like it will never return to normal.

And let's be honest. "Normal" wasn't exactly a joy before the pandemic.

By the beginning of 2021, flights were opened and mask requirements were implemented for all passengers and employees. In alignment with federal mask mandates, many airlines suspended serving alcohol, with a promise to resume after the mask mandates were lifted.

In May, American Airlines extended this suspension for the main cabin until Jan. 18 because of an increase in unruly behavior, according to the airline. Southwest Airlines followed suit after an incident resulting in a flight attendant losing two teeth; they too will not consider serving booze again until early next year.

In late November, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed $161,823 in civil penalties against eight airline passengers for “alleged unruly behavior involving alcohol.”

"He went to the lavatory, mixed his own alcohol with a soft drink, and threw the empty liquor bottle into the toilet. When flight attendants tried to confiscate the drink, he quickly consumed it." — FAA

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Since January, the FAA has received over 300 reports of unruly passengers caused by alcohol and intoxication, prompting the FAA to send out a letter to airlines requesting that they work hard to ensure that passengers don’t bring alcohol onto flights themselves.

“We have received reports that some airport concessionaires have offered alcohol “to go,” and passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated during the boarding process,” said Steve Dickson, administrator for the FAA, in the letter.

Last week’s press release also included eight new cases against passengers, one of them from a DFW flight. The report states that the passenger was told multiple times to put his mask on properly and was caught pouring his own alcohol into his soda. As federal law prohibits passengers from consuming alcohol aboard a flight that isn’t served by a flight attendant, the passenger received a $34,250 fine.

Another passenger on a Southwest flight that originated in Dallas consumed his own alcohol; his drink was confiscated and was issued a warning. According to the FAA, things got messy on the next leg of the flight. "However, during the flight from Nashville to Fort Lauderdale, he went to the lavatory, mixed his own alcohol with a soft drink, and threw the empty liquor bottle into the toilet. When flight attendants tried to confiscate the drink, he quickly consumed it. The crew contacted law enforcement and gate security at Fort Lauderdale, and the passenger was escorted off the aircraft. Flight attendants subsequently found multiple empty mini alcohol bottles belonging to him."

The passenger received a $12,500 fine.

So if you’re planning to board a flight this year, remember that even though no alcohol is being served, serving yourself will land you a massive fine and a possibility for a criminal investigation into unruly behavior.