The short answer: it depends. But certainly there’s less alcohol available in the skies. You may indeed feel like a drink after taking the plunge and getting on a plane this summer. Then again, my own recent experience has been that some of the changes to passengers’ experience has made the occasionally bumpy moments of transiting an airport much smoother.
This is especially true of back-to-front boarding rather than the boarding-by-status we’ve all become accustomed to. It also makes for a more relaxing journey being in an airport with fewer people. Neither of these current perks of traveling is likely to last so enjoy them while you can.
All that said, while premium cabin passengers may not be able to board first and sit there trying to ignore the stream of less-fortunate souls drifting past them to their fate at the rear of the plane, they have retained some perks. They can still grab a drink in airline lounges and in some cases it’ll be served at your seat. And once onboard, many US-based carriers retain or have reintroduced the alcoholic drinks service for business class, in contrast to the bottled water only on offer in the main cabin. Southwest, who have no premium cabin, are serving water and snack mix on flights over 250 miles and JetBlue have a similar, simplified arrangement on all flights.
In Europe you’re likely to be handed a plastic bag with a snack and a bottle of water at best in economy on many airlines including British Airways. In upmarket cabins alcohol is more likely to be available and generally served in individual miniature sizes. Low-cost carriers are generally more gung-ho for grog. If you don’t mind paying (contactless card only), easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz will all serve you a drink from a limited menu. After perusing their menus online you may conclude that it is easier to get a beer than a coffee - hot drink service is generally suspended.
On long-haul international flights things are a little different. Generally if you’re going to be offered alcohol it will be with your meal, and the selection of beer, wine and spirits may be more limited than usual. There’s no tray of drinks coming round on most airlines no matter what class you’re in which may make some premium cabin dwellers ponder what the point is of going anywhere. And no matter what class you’re in you can expect in-flight meals and drinks to look more like a packed lunch than a gourmet experience.
Of course, those high-stooled seafood and champagne bars and in-airport Irish pubs will be operating as normal should you fancy a pre-flight tipple. You could even argue that these establishments need your support in these challenging times for the travel industry.
Why stop alcohol in the first place? Firstly to reduce physical touchpoints between passengers and staff. And the less food and drink on offer, the less time passengers will spend with masks off. Fewer drinks means passengers needing to go to the bathroom less, and in doing so moving round the cabin in the first place.
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