Starting Wednesday, Alcohol Will Cost More On Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines will raise the price of beer, wine, and Spirits effective November 15. Currently wine is $6, beer is $6-7, and spirits are $7. Most options go up by $2, or as much as 33%. From an internal employee document:

Southwest’s new pricing is the same for wine and cheaper than American Airlines for beer and spirits.

Of course Southwest charges more for some things, less than others for competitors. For instance they charge more ($8) for wifi than Delta and JetBlue where it’s free, less than American ($$$$$). And their wifi isn’t as good as Delta’s or JetBlue’s, though better than United’s.

There’s been inflation since 2018, but Southwest Airlines raises prices even when inflation doesn’t require it.

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 either.

Comedian Steven Wright used to say that he got kicked out of a theater for bringing his own food. His argument was that the concession stand prices were outrageous and besides he hadn’t had a good barbecue in a long time. You aren’t supposed to bring your own snacks to the movies. But if you bring your own alcoholic beverages on a plane you may go to prison.

If you want to drink inflight you’re going to have to pay Southwest pricing. It’s still cheaper to mix your own on Southwest than to go to a big city bar, but the airline’s cabin interiors aren’t as stylish.

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. “But if you bring your own alcoholic beverages on a plane you may go to prison.”

    It’s pretty much illegal in most states to drink your own alcohol or mix your own drinks at any public establishment. Lots of states have rules against popping open anything but maybe your own bottle of wine (with a corkage fee).

  2. Perhaps the goal here for WN is to put the juice a bit more out of reach for the white trash that flies WN?

  3. I’m surprised that airlines don’t gouge on drinks as much as they do. If plane-drinks had a higher profit margin, airlines would be incentivized to do more than one round with the drink cart. Higher prices could actually be a customer friendly move in some regards.

    The situation isn’t unlike a sporting event, where a decent drink usually costs $15.

  4. In Texas, on the ground, patrons are allowed to bring and drink their own liquor, beer or wine in unlicensed-TABC establishments . This is usually a premise that only sells beer and wine or sells no alcoholic beverages at all.

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