Can I Bring My Own Alcohol on an Airplane?

Whether you enjoy having a few drinks to help pass the time on a long flight, to forget that you’re tens of thousands of feet from the ground, or to dull the sound of the screaming babies everywhere, then you’ve probably wondered whether you can bring your own alcohol on an airplane. Or, if you’re traveling to wine country, like Napa Valley or Tuscany, then you might also want to know whether you can bring some of that alcoholic goodness back home with you.

Can you bring your own alcohol onto a plane? Well, yes and no. Take a sip and read on.

What Does the Law say?

Logic might tell you that, since you’re not the one operating the steel tube that is moving hundreds of miles per hour and several thousand feet in the air, then why would anybody care if you bring your own booze to get a nice buzz going? After all, you’ve been told by countless people that you’re much more fun to be around when you’ve belted down a few, and being crammed into a tight space with a bunch of strangers can be pretty unnerving.

In addition, flights aren’t cheap at the best of times, so by bringing your own alcohol you’ll save a good chunk of cash. Everyone wins, right? Wrong.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, it’s illegal for passengers to drink any alcoholic beverage that has not been served to them by a certified airline staff member. The FAA also says it’s illegal to serve booze to someone who appears to be intoxicated, so you may want to work on fixing that slur you get after you’ve downed a few. The rules also prohibit staff from serving drinks to anyone that has a access to a dangerous weapon. That last one sounds like a really good idea, as well as a pretty obvious one.

The reality is that, unfortunately, while you may be a gifted drinker who becomes rather personable after a couple of cocktails, plenty of other people turn into obnoxious and short-tempered drunks. If you’ve ever sat in coach, then you know the last thing you need is a bunch of surly dudes who have been knocking back moonshine sitting right beside you.

Of course, by not allowing people to drink their own alcohol, airlines make some serious cash on the booze they sell. In other words, profits for airlines, as well as the safety of their staff and passengers, is why drinking your own liquor is a big no-no.

What Security Measures do Airlines take with Alcohol?

But all this aside, could you bring your own booze into the plane cabin if you really, really wanted to? The answer is maybe.  Due to increased security measures, most liquids in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or more cannot be carried through security checkpoints onto a plane. If you’ve flown a lot over the last few years, then you’ve probably had more than one liquid substance, be it shampoo, gel, or whatever, taken from you and tossed into the contraband bin.

Since alcohol is a liquid, then the drink menu starts to get pretty limited once we’re talking about 3.4-ounce containers. While some airlines might allow passengers to carry on mini bottles that are this size or smaller, if you get caught opening one during the flight – even if it’s “by accident” – be prepared to pay a hefty fine.

As a result of these same rules, it’s a pretty good bet that security will also double check to see that the flask you’re carrying “for sentimental reasons” is empty. Just as they’ll make sure that the bottle in your backpack, which you use “just for water”, is bone dry.

The one exception to the carry-on rule is booze you buy at duty-free shops, which are located past security checkpoints in airports. Some airlines will allow you to carry on that ridiculously cheap bottle of bourbon that you just bought; however, don’t think about cracking it open and offering everyone a swig.

Should I keep my Alcohol in my Checked Luggage?

Most of the time when someone wants to know if they can bring their own alcohol on an airplane, what they’re really asking is whether they can drink their much-cheaper booze and get pie eyed while they fly. The answer to this question is no; well, not legally anyway.

If they’re asking whether they can bring alcohol on the plane, period, however, that’s another story. While the rules may vary depending on the airline and where you’re flying, many carriers allow passengers to store alcohol in their checked luggage. For example, some airlines will allow you to bring booze, as long as it’s securely packaged, unopened, and has an alcohol content of 70% or lower.

No, this doesn’t mean you can bring a suitcase full of single malt scotch, as many airlines limit how much liquor you can check to between one and five liters. If you’re heading back from wine country, or just want to take copious amounts of vino to your family reunion, however, the good news is you can take much, much more.

Due to the fact that wine is less than 24% alcohol, there are no federal regulations regarding how much you can bring! As a result, some airlines will let you fill your luggage to the brim with wine; provided, of course, that it’s properly wrapped up and you don’t exceed the weight limits. How’s that trip to Sonoma Valley sounding now?