Southwest Airlines will resume alcohol sales on most of its flights this month following a nearly two-year hiatus. COO Mike Van de Ven said last week that the resumption would likely come late in the first quarter or early in the next quarter, per CNBC. The date is now confirmed as Feb. 16, with beer, wine, rum, tequila, and vodka to be made available on flights covering at least 176 miles. Tonic water, apple juice, Coke Zero, Dr. Pepper, hot tea, and hot cocoa will also be added to the list of available non-alcoholic beverages, per NBC News. "Customers have expressed a desire for more beverage options," said Tony Roach, vice president customer experience and customer relations, per Reuters.
However, the airline's 16,000-member flight attendants' union labeled the move "unsafe and irresponsible." "We have adamantly and unequivocally informed management that resuming sales of alcohol while the mask mandate is in place has the great potential to increase customer non-compliance and misconduct issues," said union president Lyn Montgomery, per NBC. The mask mandate requires passengers to wear a face mask unless eating or drinking. Some 70% of the 5,981 reports of unruly passenger behavior received by the FAA last year involved disputes over mask compliance, per CNBC. Both American Airlines and Alaska Airlines scaled back recent service expansions in response to complaints from flight attendants' unions. (Read more Southwest Airlines stories.)