Southwest Ditches Plan To Bring Back Alcohol, Says Passengers Are Too Ill-Behaved

It’s all fun and games until someone pokes their eye out. Southwest has decided to indefinitely delay the return of alcohol service to its flights in light of a recent spate of Spirit Airlines passengers fanning out across other airlines. The plan to bring back alcohol was only announced 8 days ago.

The problem, as Dalton first observed, is this:

People who really want to have a good time won’t come to a slaughterhouse. And we’ve got entirely too many troublemakers here. Too many 40-year-old adolescents, felons, power drinkers and trustees of modern chemistry.

I’ve asked the airline whether they will consider further extensions to expiring free drink chits.

Airlines are slowly bringing back their inflight service, with more people vaccinated and a realization that Covid-19 wasn’t spreading via fomites anyway. Southwest Airlines is about to join the party, going from offering Coke, Diet Coke, 7 Up and water only to selling beer and wine and offering coffee, too.

  • Hawaii flights get beer and wine back June 24

  • All other flights 251 miles or greater get beer and wine back July 14

  • Coffee returns June 24

The airline confirmed to me in late March that free drink coupons you may have with expiration dates in 2020 or 2021 are valid through December 31, 2021.

Back in the day of course free drink coupons didn’t used to expire at all and the change led to a class action lawsuit that paid out well for the attorneys.

Just prior to airline deregulation, when Southwest Airlines had to start competing with Texas International Airlines and Braniff offering cheap fares between Houston and Dellas, they started giving out “to go” bottles of alcohol to full fare customers. They became the largest liquor distributor in the state.

For many years Southwest Airlines offered free drinks inflight to all customers. They cut that back to offering free drinks only during key business travel times. And then in 1988 they eliminated free alcohol from their flights, but started giving coupons to frequent flyers.

Booze may be part of the airline’s DNA, stemming from Wild Turkey-drinking co-founder Herb Kelleher, but the airline isn’t as loose with the drinks as they once were.

Chase stopped giving out drink chits to their cardholders in 2016. Southwest no longer sends them out when you redeem award tickets, or on your birthday. There seemingly aren’t as many free drink holidays on the airline as there used to be.

Here’s how you can still get free drinks on Southwest.

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, 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. Do they still give out drink coupons? Literally nothing on eBay beyond historical ones. Was hoping to grab some for a flight later this year.

  2. FYI. Can you check your coffee return date. The USA Today article says it’s June 24 for the return. That makes more sense given booze is being sold later.

  3. Will Southwest also ban swearing, smoking weed on the way to the airport, driving above the speed limit, leaving the toilet seat up and other crimes of moral turpitude? How many of these passengers are found to have been drunk on alcohol served by the airline? ….exactly none.
    The f/a shouldn’t have gotten punched but you always run that chance when you harass other people…..I learned about minding my own business growing up……I still have all of my teeth.

  4. Seems like this is a repost or bump – does the headline need updated? Doesn’t really make sense as currently written…

  5. Reminds me of when USC banned alcohol at the Coliseum, leading to MORE drinking at tailgates, etc. and more incidents at the stadium…

  6. These actions ignore the larger issue of pre-gaming in airport bars, no evidence that zero alcohol in flight bev servivice contributed to anyone being overserved on a plane when no alcohol was available onboard in main cabin.
    The mask/ no mask schtick , now a relic,is entertaining only if you are nostalgically entertained by the old Miller Lite “Tastes great /less filling” TV ads from the 80’s.

    These actions are are a result of Union reps, building a strawman , which unwittiing CEO’s fail to comprehehend, cater to a wannabe elected union official & downgrade the experience of their best customers, who 99.9% of which have acted responsibility since the origin of commerial aviation

  7. Completely understand, you have all seen the “BUM-FIGHT” videos that get posted over masks. People have become self indulgent jerks that act like animals over not wanting to wear a mask so you add alcohol to the mix and it will become a greater gladiator fest

  8. I’m beginning to think that pre-flight puffing may have a lot to do with the adolescent behavior demonstrated by an increasing number of passengers. Has anyone done any studies on a correlation between legal pot states as origination points and behavior?

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