FAA Urges Airports To Stop Alcohol 'To Go' Amid Spike In Unruly Passengers

By Jason Hall

August 5, 2021

Photo: Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration is advising U.S. airports to cease "to go" sales of alcohol amid a recent spike in incidents involving unruly passengers.

ABC News reports the FAA wrote to airport leaders nationwide advising police to arrest more individuals who are unruly and/or violent on flights and asked airport bars and restaurant to stop serving alcoholic beverages that can be taken through the airport.

"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,'" FAA Administrator Steve Dickson wrote. "And passengers believe they can carry that alcohol onto their flights or they become inebriated."

The FAA investigated a recent surge in incidents involving aggressive behavior on flights, which determined alcohol to commonly be a contributing factor.

"Airports can help bring awareness to this prohibition on passengers carrying open alcohol onboard their flights through signage, public service announcements, and concessionaire education," Dickson said.

Several major U.S. airlines have prohibited alcohol sales on board until the expiration of a mask mandate, which is currently set to remain in place until at least mid-September.

Southwest decided to ban on flight alcohol sales after an unruly passenger allegedly knocked a flight attendant's two front teeth out in June.

"Certainly with the number of incidents you can tell why flight attendants would feel leery about beginning to sell alcohol onboard the aircraft again," Lyn Montgomery, a spokesperson for the union that represents Southwest flight attendants told ABC News.

Alcohol was also reported to be a factor in an incident on a Frontier Airlines flight Saturday (July 31) in which Maxwell Berry, 22, allegedly groped two flight attendants and punched a third flight attendant in the face after having at least two drinks on the flight, according to authorities.

Berry then duct taped to his seat for the duration of the flight and charged with three counts of battery after the plane landed in Miami.

However, the FFA said other incidents haven't resulted in unruly passengers facing criminal charges.

"While the FAA has levied civil fines against unruly passengers, it has no authority to prosecute criminal cases," Dickson told airport executives.

The agency said it received more than 3,700 reports of unruly passengers on flights since January, which includes more than 2,700 of the individuals refusing to wear a mask.

The FAA continues to enforce its zero-tolerance policy for in-flight disruptions, which could lead to up to $52,500 in fines, as well as up to 20 years in prison.

The agency said it has investigated more than 628 possible violations of federal law in 2021, which is the highest total since it began keeping records in 1995.

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