In 1950, Airlines Didn’t Serve Liquor Over Dry States

Before 1949, U.S. airlines didn’t serve alcohol in flight, but when a few airlines eventually decided to serve alcohol that didn’t mean it was easy to do. Because of conflicting state liquor laws, drinks could be serve only over certain states. For example, a flight leaving New York for the West Coast would allow passengers to drink over New Jersey, but not over Pennsylvania, which was a dry state. Bar attendants were given a chart of state liquor sale restrictions. The chart listed the states along the route, and for each state gave prohibited hours, prohibited days and restrictions to persons served. “The attendants judged from landmarks whether — and to whom — they could serve drinks. The attendants also knew that drinks couldn’t be served on Sundays, election days, certain other holidays, and during specific hours in some states. By the mid-1950s, Congress stepped in, looking to ban the serving of liquor on all domestic flights. Six U.S. airlines agreed to limit hard liquor, but declared they wouldn’t restrict beer and wine service. Banning alcohol on flights won’t happen anytime soon. According to data collected from five U.S. airlines, alcohol sales bring in more than $43 million a year.