Southwest Airlines Corks Free-Flowing Liquor

Associated Press

Southwest Airlines Co. has made its last call for free alcoholic drinks, ending an era for a carrier once known as one of the busiest bartenders in Texas.

Southwest earlier this month corked the free booze on weekday flights during peak hours in a belt-tightening move, airline spokeswoman Charlotte Goddard said.

The Dallas-based company some time ago stopped serving free alcoholic drinks on off-hour and weekend flights.


Goddard said she expected some adverse reaction, but not much. Frequent business travelers, the original targets of the drinks program, will be offered some drinks either discounted or on the house.

“We think our customers will understand that this was a business decision” to maintain competitive rates, she said. She also said Southwest’s prices, $2 for cocktails and $1 for beer and wine, are similar to other airlines’ prices and a bargain.

Still, it’s a far cry from the days when free-flowing alcohol was as much a part of the airline’s image as stewardesses clad in hot pants.

As a fledgling intrastate commuter, Southwest used booze to battle the big boys, Goddard said.

She said that in the early 1970s, Braniff Airways and Texas International offered fares between Houston and Dallas for $13. At Southwest, the same trip cost $26.

So Southwest gave Dallas-to-Houston passengers a choice--they could pay $13 or pay the $26 and get a free premium bottle of liquor.

“Since many of the businessmen were on expense accounts, they paid the higher fare and got the liquor,” she said.

The offer became one of the most popular promotions at Southwest. In company lore, Goddard said, Southwest became the largest liquor distributor in the state.

Southwest, founded in 1971, serves 27 cities in 13 states.