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.

Most of our plane journeys have changed ©EV040/Shutterstock

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.

flight attendant serving customers on an airplane
Service varies depending on the airline and length of journey ©Compassionate Eye Foundation/Justin Pumfrey/Getty Images

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.

You might also like: 

Ask LP: can I still use the bathroom on a plane?
Ask LP: what if my country introduces travel restrictions while I'm away?
US airline uses newly-approved virus-killing coating to keep planes clean

Explore related stories

Cize, France - July 9, 2015: French high speed train TGV operated by SNCF, national rail operator on Cize-Bolozon viaduct bridge in Ain, Rhone-Alpes region in France. This train was developed during the 1970s by GEC-Alsthom and SNCF. A TGV test train set the record for the fastest wheeled train, reaching 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph) on 3 April 2007. Viaduct of Cize-Bolozon in summer season in Bugey along Ain river. This viaduct is a combination rail and vehicular viaduct crossing the Ain gorge. An original span built in the same location in 1875 was destroyed in World War II. Reconstructed as an urgent post-war project due to its position on a main line to Paris, the new viaduct reopened in May 1950. It carries road and rail traffic at different levels.
Brand-name, European Culture, Travel, People Traveling, Tourism, High Speed Train, Locomotive, Elevated Road, High Speed, Arch Bridge, Railway Bridge, Elevated Railway Track, Viaduct, Railroad Crossing, Stone Material, Symmetry, Crossing, Scenics, Arch, Bullet Train, Majestic, Journey, Blue, Ancient, Old, Pattern, French Culture, Architecture, Transportation, Nature, Rural Scene, Panoramic, Ain, Rhone-Alpes, France, Europe, Tree, Summer, Mountain, Hill, Landscape, Sky, River, Water, Railroad Track, Bridge - Man Made Structure, Monument, Train, Mode of Transport, Stone Bridge, SNCF, TGV, Alstom, Bugey

Sustainable Travel

How to get around France: from cycling to traversing by train

May 18, 2024 • 7 min read