American Airlines will not begin serving alcohol again in the main cabin of flights until at least January 2022 amid a surge in unruly passenger incidents during the coronavirus pandemic, the company confirmed to The Hill on Thursday.
The company announced the extension of the policy, which was first implemented early in the pandemic, in a message to flight attendants that was also shared with The Hill.
The airline said that the suspension of alcohol service in coach cabins will remain in effect until at least Jan. 18, when the current Transportation Security Administration mask mandate for all passengers at airports and aboard aircraft is set to expire.
Under the mandate, all customers, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks while traveling.
American Airlines also requires all of its employees to wear masks, though it has not implemented a vaccine mandate for its workers.
“We are doing all we can to help create a safe environment for our crew and customers onboard our aircraft,” American said Thursday.
The decision, which was first reported by ABC News, comes as Southwest Airlines, the only other major U.S. airline to suspend alcohol sales, said it has not yet made a decision on whether its suspension will be extended.
While United Airlines has suspended hard liquor sales, it still sells other alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine, on its flights.
Both American and Southwest announced in late May that they would be extending their suspensions on alcoholic beverages in the main cabin through Sept. 12, when the federal mask mandate had previously been set to expire.
The extension followed a series of violent incidents with unruly passengers, including one who allegedly assaulted a Southwest flight attendant, causing her to lose two of her teeth.
Lyn Montgomery, president of the Southwest flight attendants’ union, said in a May letter to CEO Gary Kelly that violence and verbal abuse against flight attendants had "reached an intolerable level."
"From April 8 to May 15, there were 477 passenger misconduct incidents on Southwest Airlines aircraft,” the union president said at the time. “I write to you today because we cannot tolerate our beloved Cohearts being abused in such a manner, and because I am asking for your help and leadership in ending these travesties.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday said it was proposing levying fines of more than $500,000 against 34 passengers accused of exhibiting “unruly behavior.”
Many of the FAA’s fines issued under its pandemic-era zero-tolerance policy have been among passengers who refused to wear masks or violently pushed back against workers when instructed to put on a facial covering.