Airlines cut in-flight food and drinks to slow coronavirus’ spread

Southwest Airlines is eliminating snack and drink service on all flights, starting Wednesday.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)
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To slow the spread of the coronavirus, several of the nation’s largest airlines are eliminating or reducing the food and drink services offered on most flights.

The changes announced by American, Southwest, Delta and Alaska Airlines come as the nation’s carriers continue to struggle with a pandemic that has led the industry to slash capacity by up to 75% on international flights and 52% on domestic flights.

Airlines have taken hundreds of planes out of service and parked them in remote desert airports until they can be returned to the air after the crisis subsides.


The cuts in food and beverage services come days after Southwest and American Airlines agreed to let their flight attendants wear masks while on duty.

To help prevent the spread of the virus, airlines have also closed airport lounges, stepped up cleaning procedures in the cabins and suspended “hot towel” service for first-class passengers, among other changes.

Airlines announced the following changes in food and beverage services:

  • Southwest Airlines suspended snack and beverage service on all flights until further notice, starting Wednesday. Southwest spokeswoman Ro Hawthorne said the changes were “in accordance with health officials’ recommendations to limit close public interactions during the coronavirus outbreak.”
  • American Airlines said it will offer only limited food and beverage service starting Friday. On flights shorter than 4½ hours, no food will be served and only canned drinks will be offered. On longer flights, beverages will be served as usual; meals will be offered only on long-haul international flights. “As a result of working with our flight attendant team and the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants [union], we are taking these necessary steps today and will continue to update our policies in response to guidance from the CDC,” Jill Surdek, American’s senior vice president of flight service, said in an online post.
  • Delta Air Lines began reducing onboard services Wednesday, including eliminating alcoholic drinks and offering only bottled beverages. Only two snacks will be offered on flights less than 900 miles long. On longer flights, passengers are to get packaged meals, along with two snacks.
  • Alaska Airlines will offer no food or drinks on flights shorter than 250 miles, including in first class. On longer flights, only bottled beverages and packaged snacks will be handed out. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own snacks.