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Southwest Asks Flyers to Leave Alcohol at Home

Southwest Asks Flyers to Leave Alcohol at Home
Joe Cortez

As airlines reduce their in-cabin services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines are seeing a new, unwelcome trend starting: flyers carrying on and drinking their own alcohol. As a result, Southwest Airlines is asking passengers to leave their alcohol at home, instead of smuggling it on in lieu of on-board service.

Citing health concerns and preventing the spread of the novel Coronavirus, airlines have notably cut back on their in-flight services. While it is forcing some companies to get creative about their business, flyers are also getting creative about how to have an in-flight cocktail. USA Today reports Southwest Airlines is asking flyers not to bring or consume their own alcohol on board.

Flight Attendants to Start Announcing Prohibition on Self-Service Alcohol

According to an internal memo obtained by USA Today, flight attendants have complained to managers that flyers are bringing their own alcohol aboard flights. Under federal law, flyers cannot bring aboard their own alcohol with the intention of pouring a drink. All alcohol must be served by the “certificate holder operating the aircraft.”

As a result, the airline will add a new announcement during the pre-flight speech. In addition to reminding passengers that smoking and vaping are not allowed aboard aircraft, attendants will also tell flyers: “It is also prohibited to consume alcohol that you’ve brought.”

What happens when a flyer gets caught bringing their own booze? The memo seen by USA Today suggests that flight attendants should remind passengers about the policy, and request that they do not consume the beverage aboard the flight. It is unclear if new or repeat offenders will be reported to law enforcement by Southwest employees.

“While there is information on and announcements are made in the gate area, some customers may not know about this regulation that prohibits them from consuming their own alcohol,” the memo from Southwest manager of inflight safety, standards and regulatory compliance Kari Kriesel wrote in the memo, according to USA Today. “Refrain from confiscating sealed containers, and allow customers to stow those for the remainder of the flight.”

In-Flight Alcohol May Not Return Anytime Soon

Although the issue is becoming a problem, it may only get worse as airlines delay resuming a normal level of service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As airlines mandate social distancing and wearing face coverings throughout the process, they continue to cut in-flight services to reduce contact between flight attendants and passengers.

Other airlines are also noticing this trend, much to their frustration. A spokesperson from American Airlines confirmed to the newspaper that they have seen an uptick in incidents where passengers consume their own alcohol brought on board.

View Comments (34)


  1. cmd320

    August 4, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Another of many reasons to not fly WN.

  2. crwander

    August 5, 2020 at 4:13 am

    Ummm… This is not a “Southwest Airlines” thing… It is against Federal Regulations to consume alcohol that has not been served by a crew member.

  3. crwander

    August 5, 2020 at 4:15 am

    14 CFR § 121.575 – Alcoholic beverages.

    § 121.575 Alcoholic beverages.
    (a) No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.

  4. Batman's brother

    August 5, 2020 at 4:15 am

    I’ll drink to that. ~hick~

  5. nydisneykid

    August 5, 2020 at 4:21 am

    How did the passenger even get it through security??

  6. Podcat

    August 5, 2020 at 4:53 am

    So let’s review:

    1) No drink service for stressed out passengers afraid of dying
    2) No option to replace lost drink service allowed
    3) No end in sight for either
    4) Airlines headed for bankruptcy due to loss of passengers

    Plenty already couldn’t stand the unpleasantness of flying BEFORE COVID. And now this.

    Great plan for success.

  7. vargha

    August 5, 2020 at 5:02 am

    I rarely drink alcohol, and I never drink on flights. But where is the wisdom in this rule? And how does drinking alcohol spread COVID?

  8. DLFan2

    August 5, 2020 at 5:22 am

    This is not just WN. Long before the COVID19 problem, DL Connection carrier SkyWest routinely included in their safety briefing that “federal law prohibits passengers from consuming their own alcohol.”

  9. top987

    August 5, 2020 at 5:38 am

    Yes cmd320, an airline reminding the passengers of Federal Law is a reason not to fly that particular airline. Not a very good reason, but a reason. All of the airlines I’ve ever flown have reminded passengers that they can’t smoke on board. Is that one of your reasons not to fly them as well? I truly understand some flyers aversion to Southwest, particularly those who object to the open seating policy, but truly the weirdest reason I can think of not to fly a particular airline is because they remind you of a law that has been on the books and in force for decades.

  10. Aloha1

    August 5, 2020 at 5:57 am

    Just serve the booze and there’s no issue.

  11. Athena53

    August 5, 2020 at 6:14 am

    That’s the rule on every airline. Of course, with the FAs spending most of the flight hiding out in the galley, how would they know unless you make a nuisance of yourself? :-)

  12. Kensterfly

    August 5, 2020 at 6:23 am

    It’s the law. It has always been the law. Every airline should be enforcing this. Southwest should be commended for enforcing the law, not criticized.

  13. dginil

    August 5, 2020 at 6:28 am

    cmd320, the rule is true of every airline, not just WN and I would expect they will largely enforce it, some with a heavier hand than WN is planning. The WN announcement, however, technically implies passengers could consume alcohol brought on board by another passenger (“I didn’t bring it, he did.”) It should be changed to say passengers are prohibited from consuming alcohol on board unless it is provided by the airline — but they won’t since that just raises the expectation the airline will serve alcohol if asked.

  14. kitakizmo

    August 5, 2020 at 6:42 am

    Cmd320, such a hater. You don’t fly them anyway but you had to post. Sad.

  15. Alefson

    August 5, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Since they do not confiscate sealed containers, the solution is to minimize the time between unsealing the container and emptying the container. That should not be a problem, as flight attendants are usually nowhere to be seen during the flight in their effort to reduce the contact with passengers.

  16. mc4bbs


    August 5, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Next, they’re not going to allow me to use my in-flight seat power to operate my blender for frozen margaritas!

    You can have my cocktail when you pry it from my cold, dead hand! ;-)

    On a serious note: Drinking your own alcohol on board has been illegal under federal law for a very long time… but it does not stop people from bringing it and consuming it anyway! 1 quart-size zip lock bag of minis (single shot bottles of booze), flasks and under 100ml containers can all be brought through TSA’s liquids restrictions. “Hand sanitiser” is allowed through security — who’s to say it’s not vodka? If you’re more of a booze-hound and need a litre to get through a Southwest Air flight (I know I would!!), larger airports have duty free shops, which you can purchase items (and pay tax) for domestic use.

    Or — perhaps, FLY DELTA and you will be served booze on request!

  17. flynlow

    August 5, 2020 at 7:46 am

    can someone explain this to me considering TSA regulations: ‘flyers carrying on and drinking their own alcohol‘ Is this article referring to people buying alcohol at the airport convenience stores that are located past the security checkpoints? The title assumes that people are bringing it from their homes.

  18. rjg319

    August 5, 2020 at 7:58 am

    @cmd320: Maybe you misread or didn’t read or didn’t understand that this is WN enforcing FAA regulations and not some underhanded means of separating you from your precious bottle of booze. I mean I don’t fly WN if I can possibly avoid it, but it’s for actual, real reasons as opposed to being butt hurt that an airline is following regulations.

  19. kabroui

    August 5, 2020 at 8:27 am

    And SW just announced they will be reducing their cleaning/sanitizing frequency.

    Geez, how many more reasons can you give me not to fly your airline?

  20. Ifti Khan

    August 5, 2020 at 8:44 am

    It is the law and included in the FAR. It does prevent a person over imbibing. But look at the revenue lost! Its also a money thing folks

  21. fholt

    August 5, 2020 at 9:30 am

    @flynlow – You’re free to bring alcohol in mini-bottles through TSA so long as they fit in your 1qt clear bag. It’s not allowable per FAR rules to consume onboard. I’m not aware of any shops in airports in the US that sell takeaway booze, beer or wine. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any – but none I’ve noticed.

  22. Arthur Dent

    August 5, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Heck, I’ve been bringing my own for decades now… I fill 3.4 oz containers that are meant for shampoo and such , then fill them with my top shelf booze.
    Just got to be sly, then, no worries…
    Happy sailin’ through the sky’s….

  23. JAGorham

    August 5, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Like fholt, I’ve done it a lot (particularly on long flights, mostly because I don’t feel like paying their rate for hard liquor). If I feel the need in the future, I’ll just buy a soda post-security, drink some, and dump in the contents of the bottle into said soda bottle. Now, if they start saying you can’t bring food or drink onto the plane, that might be cause for troubles.

  24. askmrlee

    August 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    “I rarely drink alcohol, and I never drink on flights. But where is the wisdom in this rule? And how does drinking alcohol spread COVID?”

    It’s not the drinking alcohol that’s a covid risk. It’s the preparation and handling an open cup drink. I don’t believe the airlines can serve you a sealed alcoholic mini bottle.

  25. Morgacj2004

    August 5, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    Wah Wah Wah! Start serving alcohol again and this won’t be an issue. Passengers are tired of the airlines BS!

  26. Morgacj2004

    August 5, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    Kensterfly ! Really! God I would hate to be in your company. So PC that the PC police will give you an award!

  27. Athena53

    August 6, 2020 at 4:47 am

    There are some airports that sell mini-bottles of wine airside at food concessions- they’re meant to be consumed in the airport. At MCI, they actually pour it into a plastic glass and you don’t get the bottle. (However if you happen to have an empty water bottle… ;-))

  28. RogerD408

    August 6, 2020 at 5:29 am

    Yes, FAA rules have been in play for a very long time stating that only airline served alcohol is allowed to be consumed on board. Mostly, I believe, to allow the FA to monitor the passenger just like a cocktail waitress to make sure they are not incapacitated. Many times I have been served sealed bottles with a glass/can of mixer to dose my own (most times theirs are stronger than I like). Given most times I will be driving after arrival, I make sure there is no issues at destination.

    I love the idea of pre-mixing the drink air-side. I’d be tempted if the reduction of services continue. Maybe even carry my own little umbrellas and sliced fruit!

  29. Fornebufox

    August 6, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Inebriation can lead to sloppy behavior, like reduced mask compliance. You read about it all the time on these boards.

  30. Debrian Travels

    Debrian Travels

    August 6, 2020 at 11:04 am

    If you can’t get through a domestic flight, any flight for that matter, without a drink, you might have a drinking problem. As others have noted to those whining, this is a FEDERAL REGULATION, not an airline policy. Don’t like it? Write your Congresscritter.


    August 7, 2020 at 4:51 am

    Yikes! I thought I’d never see prohibition return again. Not good.

  32. jamesteroh

    August 7, 2020 at 8:45 am

    It’s a federal law. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of passengers making their own to go to drink and putting them in their travel mugs at lounges.

    I haven’t flown Southwest in years but would want a couple drinks in me to tolerate the FA’s corny jokes.

    What I don’t understand is Delta’s policy. They’ll serve beer and wine but nothing else. How are you more likely to get Covid from vodka than you are beer?

  33. Orange County Commuter

    August 12, 2020 at 9:48 am

    I’m a little shocked that so many of you apparently are clueless as the federal regulations and are “blaming the airline”.

    I am not shocked that you can’t fly without booze. Based on what I have seen on Flyertalk we really need AA board because some posters can’t apparently stay dry for more than half an hour LOL!

  34. MRM

    August 12, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    There’s apparently a lot of folks that have nothing to do but complain. This law’s been around for decades – it’s just that until recently most people were smart enough not to bother breaking it. This same entitlement/arrogance is why we STILL have to have the no-smoking reminder each flight – because the new idiotic response is “it’s just water! in our Juul!!!!” Just dumb.

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