TWU Stops Airport Tailgating & Curbs Airport Drinking

May 17, 2024


Union helps defeat a bill that would have allowed airline passengers in California to drink alcohol at airport gates right up to the moment they board their plane – which is a recipe for disaster.

The Transport Workers Union, which represents Flight Attendants and Airport Operations workers, successfully fought a California bill that would have allowed passengers to drink alcohol in airport waiting areas, not just in licensed restaurants and bars. Because of union opposition, AB 2615 died in a California State Legislature committee Thursday and cannot advance this session.

“This bill was a recipe for disaster,” TWU International President John Samuelsen said. “It would have encouraged more pre-flight drinking and would have forced our members to contend with an even greater number of volatile and unruly passengers. Some passengers undoubtedly would attempt to bring drinks and open containers of alcohol onto planes, and our members would have been expected to stop them. Enforcing booze-related rules and dealing with drunks is a job for bartenders and potentially law enforcement, not Flight Attendants and Airport Operations workers. Too many Flight Attendants are assaulted and abused right now. This bill would have exacerbated this very serious problem. The last thing we need is passengers tailgating before boarding.”

The TWU led a coalition of labor groups opposing the bill and lobbied elected officials in the California Assembly on the issue in recent weeks. The California Airports Council, a trade organization representing airport operators, supported the bill as a way to increase revenues.

There were more than 2,000 FAA-reported unruly passenger incidents in 2023. (That’s a decline from the reported incidents in 2021 but still far higher than pre-pandemic levels.) The federal government levied $7.5 million in fines for unruly passenger incidents in 2023 and thousands of travelers had their travel plans disrupted when planes were delayed or diverted due to an unruly passenger incident.  

FAA regulations prohibit passengers from bringing alcohol onto commercial planes.

“Given the recent rise in unruly passengers incidents, now is the time for responsible alcohol sales and consumption in California airports,” Chris Avila, TWU California State Conference Chairperson, said. “Aviation worker and passenger safety must not be sacrificed in exchange for increased alcohol sales and airport profits. As Chairperson of the TWU California State conference, I am pleased that AB 2615 will not become law.”