As we continue to grapple with the ongoing pandemic, airlines have had to adjust their rules to keep up with government regulations and policies designed to protect passengers and employees. For Finnish national flag carrier Finnair, it now means banning alcohol sales on domestic flights after 17:00.
During the current medical emergency, we have seen airlines worldwide ban the sale of alcohol on flights for several reasons. Some did it to make people keep their face masks on while flying, while others decided to do it to help stem aggressive behavior from drunk passengers. The majority, though, as is the case with Finnair, did it to comply with government regulations.
Finland wants to protect its hospitals
Back in late November of 2021, Finland banned the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants after 17:00 to all patrons who were unable to show a COVID-19 vaccination certificate. The thought at the time was that as we get deeper into winter, the move would help protect Finnish hospital ICU units from being overrun.
According to the Finnish government, excess alcohol in the body lowers a person’s immune system. Being drunk also lowers inhibitions and leads to a lack of social distancing and wearing face masks.
Finland saw a surge of new cases after the holidays
Following increased infections over the Christmas and New Year holidays, the Finnish government has implemented a safety brake mechanism to help stop COVID-19 from spreading. With the Omicron variant fast becoming the most virulent strain even amongst vaccinated people, the fear is even though it is less deadly, it will put pressure on the health system. Currently, people who become infected with the coronavirus in Finland must isolate for ten days, which means staffing levels at hospitals where COVID-19 patients are being treated could face shortages.
The new rules that ban alcohol sales after 17:00 to all people, even if they are vaccinated, came into being on Friday. Meanwhile, Finnair continued to serve alcohol on its domestic network, assuming that the ban only applied to businesses on terra firma. However, the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland confirmed that the airlines were also subject to the same rules. In a social media posting on Twitter on January 7, 2022, Finnair said that the sale of alcoholic beverages on Finnair and Norra’s domestic flights would no longer be allowed after 17:00.
The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland (AVI) has ruled that the current restrictions that apply to restaurants in Finland, also apply for Finnair and Norra’s domestic flights. Thus, we cannot sell alcoholic beverages on our domestic flights after 5 p.m. pic.twitter.com/thoVpRB7yq
— Finnair (@Finnair) January 7, 2022
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Finnair has been forced to cancel flights due to staff shortages
The same rules apply to Finnair’s premium lounges at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL). Still, unlike the country’s restaurants that are required to shut at 18:00, Finnair can keep its lounges open without the sale of alcohol until 20:00. In a previous tweet posted three days ago, Finnair said that the coronavirus was impacting operations saying:
“We have been forced to cancel some flights, as the omicron variant and the flu season are causing increased sickness absences in Finnair and our partners’ teams. The same situation applies to other airlines and airports globally. Also, the winter conditions and their impact on operations challenge us on certain days. If your flight were to be disrupted, we will contact you via SMS or email.”
Given that Finnair’s longest domestic flight is from Helsinki to Ivalo in Lapland, not having a drink on the 1hr 40-minute flight should not be a problem.
What do you think about Finnair’s domestic after 17:00 drinks ban? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.