U.S. airlines eliminating inflight alcohol is as much cost-cutting as it is a coronavirus protection measure. Serving a customer tomato juice isn’t safer than serving that tomato juice with vodka.
Eliminating booze in domestic economy, where airlines were charging for it, is another measure – because that eliminates the need for a payment transaction, an interaction between flight attendant and passenger.
Still, American Airlines dropped alcohol service in “Main Cabin Extra” extra legroom coach, where it was previously free. Delta eliminated it even in first class as well as their “Comfort+” extra legroom coach seating. When few people were traveling, and there was little competition in service, the bet was this didn’t matter.
Of course dropping meals and booze from most flights meant little reason to ‘buy up’ to a bigger seat (especially when Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue continue to block middle seats). In fact it’s cheaper just to buy yourself an extra seat in coach much of the time.
With some domestic leisure travel returning, and with airlines beginning to bring back their domestic schedules, there are both some customers and some flight choices. Competition matters.
Delta is bringing back beer and wine starting July 2.
Beginning July 2, domestic First Class and Delta Comfort+ customers will begin to see complimentary beer and wine on all flights greater than 500 miles as Delta begins reintroducing adult beverage offerings after recent service adjustments made in March.
Delta teams listened to feedback from customers and consulted with health professionals before bringing single-serve red and white wine, as well as Heineken, Miller Lite, SweetWater 420 and SweetWater IPA * back on-board.
…Flight attendants will pass the cans and single-serve bottles – which are complimentary in both First Class and Delta Comfort+ – using serving trays to minimize touch points on-board. Since beer and wine selections have fewer touch points than other adult beverage options and are individually contained, they are the first to be reintroduced on-board as Delta brings back food and beverage options.
The idea that beer and wine ‘have fewer touch points’ than other alcoholic beverages seems wrong to me. Perhaps mixed drinks have more ingredients but customers can mix those themselves. What about a scotch or whiskey, though? There’s little question the continued elimination of booze, in cabins where no payment transaction has been required, isn’t out of fear of the virus. Is air travel safe or isn’t it?
My two takeaways here are: (1) Delta sees business as getting better, that customers would actually consider inflight product not just cleanliness and whether they have to fly but also who they have to fly, and (2) there may be some pressure on American to offer drinks in Main Cabin Extra – but since many American lower and mid-level managers got their walking papers today it’s not the best day for that.