Multiple airlines ban alcohol consumption on planes amid pandemic

Certain airlines are restricting alcohol consumption out of concerns that passengers will spread the coronavirus

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 16, 2020 7:14PM (EDT)

Man's hand holding a glass with transparent liquid (water or liquor), inside an airplane (Getty Images)
Man's hand holding a glass with transparent liquid (water or liquor), inside an airplane (Getty Images)

A number of airlines are refusing to serve alcoholic refreshments during their flights as a measure to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The airlines implementing the temporary new "no alcohol" policy include American companies Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, European companies Easyjet and KLM, and the Australian company Virgin Australia. Delta is only banning alcohol on domestic flights or within the Americas, but allowing it on all other international flights. American Airlines will only serve alcohol during long-haul international flights or to First Class passengers. KLM, by contrast, is suspending all sales of alcoholic drinks, while Easyjet will not allow passengers to bring alcoholic drinks on board and Virgin Atlantic is removing alcohol from its flights.

Because most airlines are requiring passengers to wear facemasks, the main purpose of not serving alcoholic beverages is to limit the amount of time in which people on the airplanes are not wearing their facemasks and could thereby be exposed to coronavirus. This is part of a larger policy airlines many airlines are implementing that involves limiting food and beverage options and even time spent in the bathroom.

Although air travel has begun to rebound, it is still expected that the airline industry will take a major hit as a result of the pandemic — which has simultaneously hurt the economy (thereby limiting how often people can travel) and increased concerns about spreading the disease through transportation.

Moreover, there are sound medical reasons for limiting alcohol consumption during the pandemic. The National Institutes of Health states that "alcohol misuse makes the body more susceptible to viral infections," including coronavirus.

Medical News Today also pointed out that there are many myths about alcohol consumption and the coronavirus that are simply not accurate. While alcohol can kill viruses on human skin, consuming alcoholic beverages will not kill SARS-CoV-2 in the human body. The article also pointed out that alcoholic breath does not kill airborne viruses and that, despite myths to the contrary, it does not stimulate the immune system.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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