On Feb. 16, the airline will restore alcoholic beverages for purchase on most of its flights of 176 miles or more for the first time since March 2020, when it restricted food and beverage options early in the pandemic.
"Customers have expressed a desire for more beverage options," Tony Roach, vice president customer experience and customer relations, said in a statement.
While some other carriers resumed selling alcohol last year, Southwest has taken a slower approach. The airline said in May 2021 that it would delay offering alcoholic beverages again, citing an industry-wide uptick in unruly passengers at the time.
Southwest said in January that it was considering bringing back alcohol in the spring. A spokesman said Thursday that the decision was driven by customer feedback, and that logistics and supply chain details came together to allow for an earlier resumption.
The union that represents Southwest flight attendants said the move is "unsafe and irresponsible."
"TWU Local 556 is outraged at Southwest Airlines’ resumption of alcohol sales," Lyn Montgomery, president of the union, said in a statement. "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."
A Southwest spokesman declined to comment on the union’s remarks.
Disruptive and sometimes violent behavior by passengers has become more frequent in the past year as travelers returned from a pandemic-induced hiatus. The Federal Aviation Administration and flight attendants groups have said that alcohol played a role in many incidents.
American Airlines Group Inc., which also opted not to resume alcohol sales in its economy cabins last year, said it still hasn’t set a date to bring it back, although it does offer alcohol in premium cabins.
"We will continue to evaluate the situation and work closely with the union that represents our flight attendants, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and medical experts on this process to determine when we will return to full service in the main cabin," the airline said in a statement Thursday.