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Flying during the coronavirus pandemic just got a little worse

Published Jun 17th, 2020 3:40PM EDT
Coronavirus US
Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/Shutterstock

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  • The coronavirus’ US impact has been especially rough on companies in the travel industry, with airlines facing devastating losses and the need to woo customers back while also implementing dramatic safety measures.
  • One of those coronavirus-related changes is the elimination of in-flight drink service by many carriers.
  • The idea here is to eliminate one more interaction between employees and fliers, which will hopefully do a little more to reduce the transmission and spread of the coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has been an equal-opportunity ravager of almost all business sectors globally, but it’s been particularly unkind to some — like travel and hospitality, which have historically relied on all the things we can’t do anymore. Like sitting in close proximity to each other (on a plane) or the enjoyment of a morning breakfast buffet (at a hotel). Airlines have been hit especially hard, with the in-flight experience now radically different than it was even as recently as the beginning of this year. And in a newly announced change, US air carriers are also now mandating the fliers wear face masks — with at least one carrier, United Airlines, threatening to put fliers who refuse on an internal blacklist and denying them opportunities to fly again in the future for a temporary period.

And the changes keep coming. For some people, an in-flight drink served along with refreshments from flight attendants helps calm their nerves. But that, unfortunately, is starting to go away, too.

Per CBS News, carriers including Delta, JetBlue, and American Airlines along with others like Virgin Atlantic have started to eliminate in-flight drink service during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to cut down on contact between flight attendants and passengers. It was probably to be expected since everyone associated with air travel is trying to find ways to minimize the spread of the virus, and since you don’t actually need a drink during your flight to help you get where you’re going, this benefit was easy to nix.

In terms of what individual carriers are doing along these lines, JetBlue is now offering pre-sealed bags with snacks and bottled water inside. JetBlue Mint passengers, meanwhile, get to enjoy pre-sealed meal boxes that come with single-serve beer and wine containers.

On a related note, one inadvertent benefit of suspending drink service is that this presumably means there will be fewer opportunities for unruly passengers to reveal themselves. With tensions and nerves especially frayed right now because of the coronavirus pandemic, declining to provide potential fuel for drunken outbursts can only be regarded as a good thing, no?

At any rate, these measures are surely temporary. As the pandemic gradually fades away, which we all hope it will do soon, carriers will no doubt reintroduce benefits like this one back into the overall customer experience.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.