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No liquor permit for US Airways in N.M.

US Airways has been denied a permit to sell alcohol to passengers in New Mexico, the state Regulation and Licensing Department has announced.
Image: US Airways
After serving liquor to an intoxicated man who later crashed his car, killing himself and five others, US Airways has been prohibited to offer liquor to passengers flying over New Mexico or while grounded in the state.Ross D. Franklin / Ap File / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

US Airways has been denied a permit to sell alcohol to passengers in New Mexico, the state Regulation and Licensing Department has announced.

Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways had received a 90-day license after the state cited it in January for serving liquor to an intoxicated man who later crashed his car, killing himself and five others.

The license expired in June, and the department later rejected the airline's request for an extension. An application for a permanent license still was pending.

In issuing the denial order, the department said it "cannot reasonably find that approval of application will protect the public health and safety or that it is in the public interest."

The denial means US Airways cannot serve alcohol while its airplanes are flying over New Mexico or while grounded in the state, said Bob Hagan, a spokesman for the department.

A spokeswoman for US Airways, Andrea Raider, said Thursday the airline is reviewing the order and will make a decision based on that review.

"We don't believe that our flight attendants violated any of our procedures, and we think they behaved correctly," she said. "We continue to back the actions of our crew members. That's been our position from the beginning and will continue to be our position."

US Airways was cited in January in connection with Dana Papst, who drove the wrong way on Interstate 25 near Santa Fe, colliding with a van carrying a Las Vegas, N.M. family.

After the deadly crash last November, the state prohibited US Airways from serving liquor on New Mexico flights until it received a state liquor license.

The airline subsequently was granted the 90-day temporary license.

US Airways had served alcohol to Papst, even though witnesses said he appeared to be intoxicated. Police have said Papst also bought beer at a Bernalillo convenience store after getting off the flight in Albuquerque.

In May, the state cited US Airways again after Ernest Wright, 49, of Albuquerque was arrested soon after leaving Albuquerque's airport. Wright, whose blood alcohol was twice New Mexico's legal limit for intoxication, told authorities he had been drinking at the Phoenix airport and on his flight to Albuquerque.

Hagan said the state had sent a letter to US Airways offering to resolve the citation through a settlement, but the airline never responded.

"That citation is still open, it's never been dealt with," Hagan said.

Those two incidents and a third in which state employees witnessed US Airways flight attendants serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated man while on board a flight from Phoenix to San Diego on Nov. 6, weighed heavily on the state's decision to deny the permit, Hagan said.

"That obviously is not a violation of New Mexico law because they weren't in New Mexico air space, but we took that as an indication US Airways is a questionable candidate for a New Mexico liquor license," Hagan said.

Raider said it's too early to say whether US Airways would again apply for a liquor license in New Mexico, though nothing under state law would prevent it.

Hagan said the state would not be prejudice against US Airways should it decide to reapply.

"We would expect the airline to demonstrate that they were prepared to meet New Mexico standards in their practices," he said.