Southwest Airlines is planning to give passengers more drink options this summer after cutting back on beverage service for most of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After only offering Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, 7 Up and water to passengers for most of the pandemic, the Dallas-based airline said it will start selling beer and wine again next month with plans to bring back coffee, juices and more alcoholic beverages later.
Dallas-based Southwest and other airlines had reduced beverage and snack services early in the pandemic as one of the many changes to flight procedures designed to encourage social distancing and reduce contact between flight attendants and passengers.
“Southwest has been monitoring public data trends to determine the appropriate timing for restoring additional onboard service offerings,” said spokesman Brian Parrish in a statement. “Bringing back this level of beverage service allows Southwest to provide an enhanced onboard experience for customers traveling with us this summer, and the additional service restores more elements of Southwest hospitality that customers know and love.”
The changes come in the midst of a summer travel season when planes are expected to be more crowded and airlines are packing flight schedules in anticipation of pent-up demand.
Starting June 24, Southwest will sell beer including Miller Lite, Dos Equis and Blue Moon on domestic flights, as well as red wine. That same day, it will also offer passengers coffee on flights of more than 250 miles.
Then on July 14, Southwest will roll out more options including orange juice, cranberry cocktail for free and chardonnay, vodka and whiskey for purchase.
Southwest has been slowly bringing its service routine back to normal. In December, it started selling planes to capacity again after essentially blocking middle seats for six months last year. In March, it reverted to its pre-pandemic boarding procedure, loading passengers 30 at a time after letting just 10 people on at a time during the pandemic.
Those kinds of changes were needed to tighten up operations and turnaround times following the 2020 year when planes flew less than half full on average, but airlines also cut back on flights. Fewer and emptier flights made it easier to get planes out on time and the industry enjoyed its best on-time rating ever.
Airlines are adjusting their service as the industry recovers from the pandemic. American Airlines has reintroduced some food and beverage service, particularly to premium class fliers. Main cabin passengers are offered water and snacks and sodas are available upon request.