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US airlines limit alcohol, food services on flights to limit COVID-19 spread

Here's a breakdown of how U.S. airlines are limiting services to minimize interaction between the flight attendants and passengers on flights to ensure safety.

As the coronavirus severely impacts the air travel industry, airlines are taking steps to reduce costs and to limit the spread of the virus. 

Some precautions include requiring passengers and airline crews to wear face masks and limiting food, beverage options services on a flight. Limiting services is a way to minimize interaction between the flight attendants and passengers to ensure safety.

Several major airlines, including Delta, American and Southwest have suspended all or some alcohol service.

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If someone is traveling in the near future, here's what food and beverage options someone can expect to be served on the different airlines:

Alaska Airlines

The airline is recommending passengers bring their own snacks and water bottles on flights. During the coronavirus pandemic, flights up to 350 miles will have no food or beverage services.

Flights longer than 350 miles will have limited service and it varies by each cabin.

Allegiant Air

This airline will still be serving snacks, but the company said all of it will be in pre-packaged and factory-sealed containers when it's served.

American Airlines

American Airlines updated its coronavirus travel safety guidelines on June 15, 2020, and said it is limiting food and drink service in the main cabin based on flight length and destination. 

Flights under 900 miles: 

  • Water, canned drinks and juice by request only
  • No snacks, alcohol or food available in the Main Cabin, but alcohol available in first-class by request only

Flights between 900 and 2,199 miles / 4.5 hours:

In the Main Cabin – includes Premium Economy and Main Cabin Extra

  • Complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies and bottled water during boarding
  • No snacks, alcohol or food for purchase
  • Water, canned drinks and juice by request only

In First Class:

  • Complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies and bottled water during boarding*
  • Drinks, including alcohol, by request only
  • No snacks or meals, and no drinks served before departure

Flights over 2,200 miles/4.5 hours:

In the Main Cabin – includes Premium Economy and Main Cabin Extra

  • No alcohol or meals except on long-haul international flights
  • No snacks or food for purchase
  • Complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies and water, canned drinks or juice during the flight

In First and Business:

  • No drinks served before departure
  • Meals served on one tray, not in courses
  • Alcohol will be available
  • Complimentary pretzels or Biscoff cookies and water, canned drinks or juice during the flight

Delta Air Lines

One of the largest airlines in the world decided it would temporarily move to offer essential food and beverage during domestic and international flights.

New changes include:

  • Two snack offerings across Main Cabin and Delta Comfort+, as well as in First Class on flights less than 900 miles.
  • First Class and Delta One meal service on U.S. domestic and short-haul international flights greater than 900 miles will now be replaced by individually pre-packaged, non-perishable Flight Fuel boxes with two snack offerings.
  • Beverages will be individual bottled water only – no alcohol offerings – across all cabins, with plastic cups and ice also removed during this time.
  • Preselect and Special Meal service will be temporarily suspended.

Delta has stopped alcohol sales on all domestic and international flights to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. 

Frontier Airlines

As of May 12, 2020, Frontier Airlines is only offering limited beverage items available for purchase during its flights. The company said these items will be provided upon request.

Hawaiian Airlines

This airline announced it has temporarily suspended its Pau Hana snack cart sales, however, guests are still welcome to bring their own food onboard.

The crew will not be serving poured beverages, but a bottle of water will be given to each guest at the beginning of the flight.

JetBlue

Jet Blue said it will continue its complimentary food and beverage service, but at a limited capacity. 

The company replaced its snack basket and beverage cart service with a pre-sealed snack and beverage bag. Also as a precaution, all glassware and mugs have been replaced with single-use cups. 

Southwest Airlines

On June 1, 2020, Southwest Airlines said it will begin serving cans of water with straws and a snack mix on flights over 250 miles, when available. It said cups will be available on request.

On all other flights, the airline is temporarily suspending its snack and beverage service "to limit Customer and Flight Attendant interactions."

United Airlines

To try and further limit potential exposure to coronavirus, United Airlines on March 29 started serving primarily pre-packaged foods and sealed beverages. It no longer offers preorder meals and food for purchase while in flight.

CDC Recommendations:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that traveling increases a person's chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best practice.

However, if someone must travel, it's recommended to wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, avoid close contact with others, wear a cloth face mask, and cover coughs and sneezes.

The CDC said some risks of flying include not being able to socially distance while on an aircraft and someone could be in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces like in security lines and airport terminals.