Grabbing a drink at the airport before a flight is something of a right of passage. A Houston airport even posted record alcohol sales at various bars and restaurants in June, fueled by limited or unavailable in-flight alcohol. But that might change.
An open letter from the FAA is calling on all airport bars to ban selling alcohol to-go. The plea comes after months of “unruly and unsafe” passengers, administrator Steve Dickinson noted in the letter, published Aug. 3.
“Every week, we see situations in which law enforcement was asked to meet an aircraft at the gate following an unruly passenger incident,” Dickinson wrote. “Our investigations show that alcohol often contributes to this unsafe behavior.”
Over 3,200 incidents of unruly passengers were recorded in the first half of 2021, along with $682,000 fines sent out, according to the FAA. But with these incidents taking place on planes, why ban alcohol to-go within the airports themselves?
“Even though FAA regulations specifically prohibit the consumption of alcohol aboard an aircraft that is not served by the airline, we have received reports that some airport concessionaires have offered alcohol ‘to-go,’” Dickinson explained. “And passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated during the boarding process.”
Just last week, a young man traveling on Frontier was taped down to his seat after drunkenly assaulting a female flight attendant. When a Southwest Airlines passenger punched a flight attendant in the face causing damage, the airline halted alcohol sales altogether.
Typically, passengers can consume alcohol on flights as long as it’s provided by the air carrier. But with some airlines halting services, the airport bar is increasingly becoming the best place to get a buzz. The FAA hopes that through “signage, public service announcements, and concessionaire education,” things will return to normal. Sensible discretion on the part of drinkers wouldn’t go amiss either.