Southwest Airlines will resume the sale of alcoholic beverages on Feb. 16 after a nearly two-year absence due to COVID-19 concerns.
The move will leave American Airlines as the only major U.S. Airline still not serving alcohol in economy.
Southwest, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, said it will add back beer, wine, sparkling wine and spirits, each selling for $6 or $7. The airline said it will honor free drink coupons that expired in 2020 or 2021. The airline periodically sends free drink coupons to frequent flyers and also includes a free drink with the purchase of its priciest ticket, called Business Select.
Southwest was the first major U.S. Airline to suspend traditional inflight service at the beginning of the pandemic to reduce interactions between passengers and flight attendants. That policy, which included all in-flight beverages except unopened cans of water on request, began on March 18, 2020.
The airline planned to resume inflight cocktails, beer and wine in June 2021 but scrapped those plans after a high-profile incident on a Southwest flight from Sacramento, California, to San Diego in which an altercation between a passenger and a flight attendant sent the flight attendant to the hospital.
“Given the recent uptick in industrywide incidents of passenger disruptions in-flight, we have made the decision to pause the previously announced restart of alcohol service onboard,” Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz said at the time. “We realize this decision may be disappointing for some customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the safety and comfort of all customers and crew onboard.”.
The airline kept the alcohol ban in place after the federal mask mandate on planes was extended into 2022 but never set a return date. The mask mandate is now in place through March 18.
In a statement, Southwest said it is adding alcohol and some other drinks including hot tea, hot cocoa, tonic water and apple juice, due to customer requests for more options.
American Airlines has not said when it will resume alcohol sales.