Flight Attendants Union Head Pushing For Federal Ban On Inflight Alcohol

There’s been an increase in inflight incidents. There are several reasons for this including a disproportionate share of leisure travelers and mask mandates that increasingly make little sense.

However there’s a push to blame alcohol even though most airlines haven’t been serving alcohol in the coach cabin. Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have pushed off their previously announced plans to bring back inflight alcohol.

Some people are looking to ban inflight alcohol altogether and are pushing for the federal government to get involved.

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement Tuesday that broader action on alcohol sales was needed to combat the problem.

“The incidents of violence on planes is out of control and alcohol is often a contributor. The federal government should provide guidance to airlines and airports on pausing alcohol sales for a period of time,” she said.

Sara Nelson, AFA-CWA flight attendants union head, likens mask mandates to smoking bans, TSA liquid rules, and requirements to turn off cell phones implying they should become permanent and wanted to make leisure travel illegal during the pandemic.

She’s rapidly becoming the ‘any outlandish government restriction’ version of Ryanair CEO Michael “if it puts me in front of a television camera I’ll say anything” O’Leary. Her suggestions are on par with his claims that he’ll make passengers stand and pay to use the lavatory, but raise her political profile. (She seemingly doesn’t realize by the way that these photos aren’t selfies and were paid for by her members.)

Nelson represents flight attendants at United Airlines, which has brought back alcohol sales, which means that her members actually have to do more work than their counterparts at American and Southwest.

The New York Times called her “America’s most powerful flight attendant” but her focus tends to be more on national issues rather than her members. Since she hasn’t managed to turn flight attendant positions at United into make work jobs she’s turning to the federal government to do it for her.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Ms. Nelson can’t quite bring herself to admit that massive government aid to the airline industry saved tens of thousands of her members’ jobs – and her union’s membership fees – but came at the cost of lots of everyday bad actors.

    Fares as low as some carriers have offered with capacity that should have come out of the market due to covid have resulted in the unacceptably high number of in-flight and airport passenger incidents.

  2. Lol. You sort of gloss over she wants to ban it at airports too. Don’t think many airports/municipalities with their absurd concession fees would appreciate that very much. Though given the Dems in Congress she is going after maybe they offset it with a passenger sobriety tax.

  3. I wonder if Sara Nelson got the idea by reading this old article from View From The Wing questioning whether airlines should stop serving alcohol because of how many issues there have been costing airlines and passengers time with diversions:

    I wonder whatever happened to the guy that wrote that. I’m sure he wouldn’t have changed his mind about the issue now just because the suggestion is coming from a union.

  4. If it’s the 20s, it must be time for Prohibition.

    What Carrie Nation doesn’t understand is that if you ban it, you’re going to have all sorts of people bringing it in uncontrolled. Does she really want to have her flight attendants turned into law enforcement and patrol people’s drinks? Next think you know, she’ll be demanding airlines administer Breathalyzer tests to all boarding passengers.

  5. The “let’s give it all away for votes” lunacy of the Democrats will replace any lost revenue from sales of alcoholic beverages to the airlines and airports with grants/subsidies from the federal government, thereby increasing deficits, raising inflation and higher tax rates on those who worked for their money.

  6. AdamH, Democrats like a libation every now and then, especially when flying. And they generally aren’t the ones who are anti mask, anti vaccine and anti flight crews. Plus, the laws of most states is that a provider of alcohol can, and must refuse to serve a customer who’s intoxicated. So the airport providers should not be sending overserved intoxicated people into the concourses, IMHO. This is not a black and white issue for many.

  7. I like it, although I keep my headphones on to avoid banter with the drunk on free krug blowhards schlepping along in life for a menial corporate salary.

  8. Time for Ms Nelson to know her audience. In a perfect world they would also ban screaming babies, pooping dogs and actually make passengers of size buy 2 seats. Alcohol is the least of the problems. Treating people humanely goes a long way.

  9. Idiots are going to act that way regardless of whether they drink or not.

    Any push to ban alcohol inflight is pure laziness.

  10. Booze is often the only thing that makes it possible to tolerate the crappy attitude and service from members of the flight attendants’ unions. Why does she hate me so much? I don’t even know her.

    (I think that’s funny)

  11. The same woman who called flight attendants first responders…not surprised. At all.

  12. Her most recent proposal would once again mean less work for flight attendants to the detriment of customers. Shocker.

  13. I have a colleague who once told me her secret to getting wasted on planes: Bring a water bottle, go to a lounge with self serve alcohol, fill up, and you’re good to go!

    She was a bit of an alcoholic.

  14. Ignore her! Her influence is one company’s workgroup, not all flight attendants. Besides, alcohol sales are a profit center for airlines. As far as abusive behavior, airlines need to ban more people. Plain and simple! About giving flight and cabin crews tasers?

  15. Southwest blamed passengers for delaying in flight alcohol. But this was just a guise to cut costs at southwest. AA decided to follow for toxic labor relations reasons.

    Southwest was going to foot an open bar for months and months. They have a backlog of BS coupons and drink coupons from practically every RR traveler they have. They weren’t going to be cash positive for probably a year on alcohol.

    This was just convenience. No alcohol was implicated on any of these incidents. Rather it was the mask mandates and all pax being spirit pax being the issue.

    The real tell would be any change to the drink coupon expiration policy. A nice gesture would to have all 2020-2021 coupons expire at end of 2022.

  16. I have on good information that that SWA f/a was a pain in the ass and enjoys enforcing mask policies a little bit too much. She picked on the wrong passenger that day and now has two souvenirs to remind her to mind her own business.

  17. Have to say…in addition to the issues of alcohol still being available in the airports, and potentially smuggled on board in thermal cups etc….it also makes me think of good old Uncle Bob…..and how not carrying the alcohol glass bottles, liquid will lighten the load and result in potentially better fuel economy….

  18. If you cant endure a flight with out alcohol? You may have a problem. The true role of the Flight Attendant? Is Passenger safety, not serving Bud/Miller at 11am on a Wednesday. Try hauling 100+ passengers off a burning aircraft, and all of a sudden that “ lazy rude flight attendant”.. and her/his co workers, just saved your life. Imagine that!

  19. I’d trade my plane alcohol for no masks any day. Union leaders rarely make sense to the common folks because it’s all about payoffs and/or power usually.

  20. Ms. Nelson would like airlines to be run the way everything worked in the USSR where employees ran things for their convenience, not the customer’s.

    Thank goodness we have enough airlines that it’s possible to avoid United and fly an airline that actually values the people who fly with them. You’d never hear the kind of self serving rubbish she spouts out of someone at Alaska Airlines. The people who work their have brains and use them to balance the needs of the company with those of their customers.

  21. A perfect example of why airlines should replace flight attendants with robots. They would serve food, alcohol, be polite to passengers, & look while they actually want to be there…. Meanwhile, all the former flight attendants can sit at home and play Candy Crush while complain about not making enough, just like they do on planes now.

  22. OMG the QUACK Fruitcake did not think all of the dirt on him would come out and his lies would be exposed, MASKS DON’T WORK!!!! they are useless cloths that get a lot of people upset along with being cramped in the smaller than ever seats.
    It is not the alcohol that is causing the problem, it is the flight attendant’s not wanting to do a job they were hired for. They have become LAZY!!!!

  23. @ ken — Um, I think you got that backwards. It was the Republicans that gave out giant handouts to the wealthy from 2017-2020. Since 1980, deficits have averaged $401 B under Democratic presidents and $650 B under Republican presidents. So, who are the big spenders??

  24. How about an application/screening process in which Ms. Nelson and her cohorts get to personally approve or reject potential fliers based on their income, education level, voting records, political beliefs, and other considerations? Seems reasonable…

  25. @ Gary — Regarding alcohol, the price is what needs to be changed. Alcohol taxes should be increased by several multiples (similar to cigarettes) due to the staggering health costs from excessive alcohol consumption.

  26. @Carolyn L Smith

    Please go to bed grandma, your craziness is showing.

    P.s., every peer reviewed scientific study has disproved you time and time again.

  27. @Gene – You’re missing the point that rich people see things from: they need the money more than normal people. A normal person would just buy food, repair their leaky roof, get some living room furniture from this century, try to have a working vehicle, stuff like that; rich people would toss it into their burgeoning portfolio, which is much more important than food for normal people. Get with the program already!

  28. @Gene,

    Nope. Your #’s are incorrect.

    Here is one, deficit annually from 2000-2008 was $250 billion. During Obama, it averaged 910 billion. Yeah, it’s not like Obama and the D’s didn’t also give out giant handouts to the wealthy. /eyeroll.

    Your ignorance is impressive. It doesn’t matter if you are a R or a D— all politicians spend a boatload of money– mainly giving handouts to the rich, who then funnel it back to the the politicians PAC’s and their bank accounts.

    Trying to deny that both sides don’t play this game proves you are ignorant.

    And oh, your #’s are wrong. Since 1980, it’s about 400 billion per year for R’s, and it’s $450b for D’s, and it is on pace for approximately 1.6 trillion if Biden gets everything he wants passed, or 1.2 trillion if he doesn’t.

    Lets be real– the massive spending started under Obama with 7 trillion in deficits. So I’m tired of D’s (and R’s) who complain about massive spending when “their candidate” isn’t in office. I’m equally tired of R’s who didn’t stand up against Trump’s excessive (in my opinion) budgets.

    The thing about Trump’s budgets? More D’s voted to approve his spending bills than R’s. So what does that tell you? D’s had no problem voting for more spending. Just look @ Biden’s current spending plan. It’s not going to me, the middle class. The policies they put in place give us a 2 tiered system– rich and poor and the middle class keeps shrinking.

  29. I think that a federal ban on alcohol on flights is not a bad idea but the ban should include airports as well. Otherwise some people will get liquored up before the flight.

  30. Any over/under odds when flight attendants demand to work from home? Teachers already did it to the expense of an entire generation. I Actually wouldn’t mind if most flight attendants “worked” from home.

  31. More “for your safety” union nonsense

    Out of touch with her own member base too – I’d bet a poll of working flight attendants shows a silent majority want no masks

  32. Given that flight attendants in the U.S. are the lowest rated in the world and have been known to abuse their authority over flight safety to cover for their dismal performance, we all should support the opposition of whatever any U.S. flight attendant or flight attendant Union wants.

    Freedom of choice is always preferable. Government shouldn’t be banning anything. If individual airlines weigh the sale of alcohol as being more risk/trouble than it is worth, they can stop serving or selling it. Government shouldn’t be telling us what we can do or businesses how they should operate. I don’t drink alcohol myself, but freedom of choice is important. There is merit to short haul flights not serving any alcohol. The more money flights cost (international transatlantic or transpacific), the less likely there will be unseasoned travelers or parties would don’t understand customs. It’s why Carnival Cruises are a specific way (due to a specific demographic and socioeconomic circumstances) versus Princess/celebrity/Royal. However, it should be up to the airline to stop it.

  33. Not for this at all, but worth mentioning that there is historical precedent for a limitation on in-air inbibing…for some period before de-regulation, passengers were limited to two drinks per flight by federal mandate, if I recall correctly….

  34. Actually if you banned talking on all flights there would be much fewer problems – almost every incident we’ve seen this year stems from someone talking (including the Southwest story on here, just the latest example). The minute anyone says a word to anyone, they are either thrown off or the plane is diverted and they are removed. Problem solved!

  35. Just another ploy by FA unions to give their members another excuse to sit on their lazy duffs and provide no service to the customers while they draw their government subsidized overpirced salaries.

  36. I am NOT a FA but I am sick to death of the put downs and generalizations of them particularly here on this line of comments complaining of them doing nothing, sitting, whatever. I wish everyone of you who thinks it is an easy job took it on and the responsibilities for every life on board to survive an emergency and see what you think then. YOU are all evidence of the garbage attitudes and behaviors and general lack of consideration and respect they must tolerate on a daily basis. Imagine if YOU had to tolerate that, all with a smile on your face and attempting to be gracious.

  37. Gene:
    Your comment about Republicans giving out giant handouts to the wealthy is ludricious. A better term would be “hand back”. The tax cuts were not “spending”, it is the exact oppositive of spending. It allowed those who earned the money to retain it and determine where they wished to spend it rather than government bureaucrats. Democrats consistently pursue tax/spend and redistribution. Their voting base likes the redistribution of wealth and its that group that is really the benefiary of handouts. Being allowed to keep what is yours is definitely NOT a handout.

  38. Ken correct times 2..Sara is a liberal left sided union horn hanging with Berni and Liz crazy.. and what does she get paid????high 6 figures..

  39. These sky waitresses need to make sandwiches, serve drinks, and shut up. Air Karen.

  40. Hi Tim. Bet you could not handle 5-6 weeks of classroom and aircraft training or yearly re current training. If you think its a cake walk? Apply and try it. Check online which airlines are hiring Flight Attendants.

  41. EXACTLY! Would hope Tim’s life would be dependent on one of his so called air waitresses but would not want other’s including FA’s at risk to prove the point. This guy couldn’t probably even unbuckle his seatbelt without guidance!

  42. @dee

    You would be wrong. I half expected she would be paid some astronomical amount, like Randi Weingarten, so I looked it up. Turns out her total comp is just over $170K per year. Maybe there are some hidden perks in there, but that’s still less than your average suburban school administrator, and I’m sure she works harder.

  43. I am a retired airline employee and I can travel for free or next to nothing. I don’t. And it’s not because of the service or because of employees with attitudes such as Ms. Nelson’s; it is because I really don’t want a seat in Economy next to those liberals making dumbass comments like they do here. As far as politics, get over it. Most of the Trump voters voted for him because it was the best available choice . . . both times.

  44. Ms.Nelson’s “selfies” tell me all I need to know about her politics. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren fly first class and I’ll bet that she would be delighted to serve them drinks.

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