Will Transatlantic Flights Stop Serving Alcohol as COVID-19 Restrictions Lift?

Virgin Atlantic is relaunching its international flights without any alcohol on board.

Not that you’re planning an international getaway anytime soon, but next time you travel across the Atlantic, you could be facing a journey without any booze. The British airline Virgin Atlantic confirmed today that when their flights resume between the U.K. and U.S. next month, service will “temporarily” not include alcoholic beverages—though other airlines don’t seem to be on board with the idea.

Virgin Atlantic is planning to reopen routes from London Heathrow airport to five destinations starting July 20 and 21, including three in the U.S.: New York, Los Angeles, and Orlando. But to “ensure the health and safety of our customers and our people, we’re introducing new measures,” Chief Commercial Officer Juha Jarvinen stated, including removing alcohol from these long haul flights, according to Express.co.uk. Though alcohol has been known to lead to unruly conduct on board airplanes, Virgin seemed to imply that the decision was made simply to minimize contact between customers and crew.

Virgin Atlantic No Alcohol On Planes
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

For many travelers, lengthy transatlantic flights are made bearable by alcohol. Many airlines that otherwise charge for drinks offer them for free on these international routes. And especially on red-eyes, alcohol was doing the job of putting people to sleep long before Ambien arrived on the scene.

So, interestingly, other airlines have taken a somewhat opposite approach with their alcohol policies. For instance, American Airlines currently has removed alcohol from their main cabin on all flights “except on long-haul international flights.” Meanwhile, Delta is not offering alcohol to anyone in any cabins on U.S. domestic and short international flights. However, for longer international flights—to the U.K.—everyone has access to a full selection of alcoholic beverages.

Meanwhile, even among British brands, Virgin Atlantic may be going against the grain. British Airways told Express that their customers could get a tipple while flying across the pond. “Customers travelling to a long haul destination will be offered pre-prepared meal boxes including dishes such as a salad, hot entrée or sandwich, served with a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages,” the airline stated.

But in Virgin Atlantic’s defense, though not specifically addressing booze, they did say these policies would continue to change. When the reopening plan was announced earlier in the month, Chief Customer Officer Corneel Koster stated, “Our medical experts are working closely with all relevant U.K. and international health and aviation authorities to ensure we adhere to, and on many occasions exceed the guidance they are offering, whilst continuously reviewing and updating the measures we have in place to keep our customers and teams safe.”

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