Starting this month, JetBlue will now serve non-alcoholic craft beer as a part of its inflight drink service, making it the first major US airline to do so.
While beer consumption in the U.S. has been declining for years, nonalcoholic consumption has been on the rise. During the covid pandemic, airlines stopped serving alcohol for a variety of reasons. Because it was a tense time, as flight attendants needed to enforce mask mandates that some passengers thought were unnecessary, alcohol seemed like a bad addition to the mix. If alcohol was present in the situation, there was a possibility that it might’ve calmed down those passengers, but things could’ve also escalated and customers could become more abusive.
In fact, the Dutch airline KLM wrote a blog post detailing how alcohol affects your body when you’re traveling at 30,000 feet, explaining that the lower barometric pressure in an airplane cabin can contribute to an increased feeling of intoxication in-flight.
“In other words, because of the lower level of oxygen in your blood, you may seem more drunk in the air than you would on the ground after consuming the same amount of alcohol,” the blog post reads. “But, in fact, your [blood alcohol concentration] will show the same percentage as would be the case if you drank the same amount of alcohol on the ground under similar circumstances.”
However, airlines sell alcohol because it makes them good money. The profit margins on beer, wine, and liquor are very wide — wide enough to deal with the occasional belligerent drunk. As a matter of fact, If airlines could make up that profit while cutting down on intoxication, they almost certainly would. Which is why a number of airlines have been experimenting with nonalcoholic specialty beverages for which they can charge extra.
Now, JetBlue has decided to follow suit, and will begin offering Athletic Brewing’s nonalcoholic Upside Dawn Golden beer on all domestic flights.
“We’re excited to take flight with JetBlue and allow flyers to relax at 35,000 feet with a great-tasting alternative to full-strength brews,” said Bill Shufelt, chief executive of the Milford, Conn., brewer. “This is a huge milestone for Athletic and a key partnership for us in the travel industry.”
According to Athletic Brewing Co., Upside Dawn Golden has been brewed to remove gluten while maintaining the hoppy and earthy notes with classic flavorings like Vienna malt and American and English hops. Clocking in at 45 calories per can, it has an ABV of less than 0.5%, the perfect option for those looking for that signature taste minus the alcohol.
In the end, alcohol can definitely lead to stressful situations for both crew members as well as fellow passengers, so the option of non-alcoholic beer should offer a win-win solution for both airlines and customers.