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Can You Bring Alcohol on a Plane? Here’s What to Know

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In these troubling times of masks, mandates, and a huge increase in misbehavior on flights (not to mention the huge fines incurred by said misbehavior), if you’re traveling domestically or internationally, the question of whether you can bring alcohol on a plane still requires a response!

Fortunately, passengers are allowed to carry their alcoholic beverages onboard. However, there are set rules to follow. Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have rules regarding flying with alcoholic beverages.

These set rules may change from country to country. But if you are traveling into the United States or from it, you must adhere to what we will reveal in this article.

Can you carry an alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft?

Alcoholic Drinks on a Table

Yes, but it depends. You can carry an alcoholic beverage on any flight following the rules and guidelines. These determine the quantity and alcohol percentage by volume (ABV). Let’s get into the details of carrying an alcoholic beverage onto the plane.

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Rules for Taking Alcohol on a Plane by FAA

If you want to take any alcoholic beverage aboard, you can. However, you must follow the FAA rules on a US airline or heading to the United States via any carrier.

As mentioned, these rules depend on the alcohol content and overall quantity. Also, where you want to carry them matters. Let’s break everything down for easy understanding.

Carry on Alcohol in your Carry On Luggage

Charcoal Beis carry-on roller suitcase with horizontal lining and brand logo, showcasing elegance and practical features for travelers.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Can you bring alcohol on a plane in your carry-on bag? Yes. You definitely can, but it has to be within the limitations set by the FAA. You can carry an alcoholic beverage with less than 24% alcohol by volume or 48 proof on a plane.

However, the total quantity should not exceed 3.4oz per person, and packaging should follow set rules. It must fit comfortably in a one quart-size, clear, zip-top bag.

It means the carry-on bag should have no tension or bulging sections. Once again, not more than 3.4 ounces per passenger! This is the same as two mini liquor bottles of 1.7 ounces each.

If the alcohol content is between 24% to 70% ABV (48-140 proof), the above rule still applies. No more than 3.4oz and should fit in a quart-size bag.

What you cannot carry on a plane, whether in a carry-on bag or checked bag, is an alcoholic beverage with more than 70% alcohol content.

That implies that your locally brewed stuff will never be permitted inside a plane, and don’t even attempt to sneak that absinthe in. It will all be confiscated if found. In the worst case, you may pay hefty fines.

Bringing Alcohol in a Checked Bag or Luggage

Man Carrying a Small and Large Lauggaes

Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% ABV or 48 proof have no limit in checked luggage. You can carry as much as you can pay for, or the cargo space permits!

That said, for an alcoholic drink with an ABV between 24-70%, you can only carry 5 liters in the checked luggage if packaged in a sealable bottle or flask.

Once again, that is the quantity limit per passenger. So, if you are traveling with a spouse or partner, you can have up to 10 liters (a little over 10 quarts).

Sounds great, right? Well, what if the ABV is above 70%? Can it make it to a plane? Nah. Don’t even dream of taking any alcohol onto the plane if it has more than 70% alcohol under any circumstances. If it gets found in checked luggage, you will be in trouble.

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What About Duty-Free Alcohol?

Alcoholic Drinks Arranged on a Shelf

I know you were definitely going to ask about this. I mean, they sell duty-free booze after luggage check-in, and right after you go through security, it’s like they’re telling you to bring booze on the plane!

So, I prepared a direct answer for you. Two special cases can be considered exceptional if you want to bring large amounts of alcohol on a plane.

The first one is buying duty-free alcoholic beverages beyond the security checkpoint. You can carry up to 5 liters of duty-free alcohol of between 24% and 70% ABV.

And if you thought of using the opportunity to bring an alcoholic beverage with more than 70% ABV on a plane because of this, I am sorry. There are no such alcoholic beverages at any duty-free alcohol store after the checkpoint. Your grandpappy’s moonshine will have to wait.

Another case is when you buy an alcoholic beverage outside the United States borders and have a connecting flight in the United States. You will only be allowed to have them on the carry-on bag if they meet the following conditions:

  • Alcoholic beverages should be in a transparent, secure, and tamper-evident bag provided by the retailer. If the bag is not transparent or is already tampered with, it won’t get into the cabin.
  • Proof that you purchased the alcoholic beverages within the last 48 hours from a duty-free shop before coming to a plane. You probably want to keep a receipt with the time printed on it. Don’t try to forge anything because you will not be allowed to take any connecting flight into the US if discovered. It is also a crime that can land you behind bars!

Other Exceptions

Passengers Inside an Airplane

Apart from alcoholic drinks with more than 70% ABV, you can be stopped from carrying alcohol onto an aircraft if you are a minor. In the US, or on a US airline, it is illegal for persons below 21 years of age to bring alcoholic beverages onboard. That is true whether in a carry-on bag or checked luggage.

However, the rule is hardly universal, but it applies to passengers flying into and out of the United States. Most countries allow 18-year-olds to carry alcoholic beverages onto aircraft.

Sounds great! But don’t attempt it when leaving or coming to the United States, even if you have heard of friends who have done it successfully. Their stupidity and luck are not a guarantee of your success!

Usually, officers at security checkpoints sometimes don’t cross-check age. If you are lucky, you can make it through, but you will be caught someday, potentially ruining every future flight you ever take.

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If You Bring Alcohol on a Plane, Can You Drink It?

Hands on a Table with Alcoholic Drink

No, you cannot drink your alcohol – even if you bought it in the duty-free section. FAA regulations prohibit passengers from drinking the alcohol they brought aboard.

The rule states that no person may drink alcoholic beverages aboard an aircraft. The only exception is when a certificate holder operating the aircraft serves it to you. If you are a lawyer, you probably see a flaw in the above statement.

“Surely flight attendants can open my booze and serve it to me!” Guess again. That is never the case. You cannot drink alcohol on the plane if you are the one who came with it.

Flight attendants will only serve you alcoholic beverages that the airliner has on the menu, which may also depend on the airline.

As an extra precaution, some airline operators warn passengers against drinking their own alcohol just before the flight. If you are not sure about any rules regarding bringing any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft, ask the attendants.

They will be willing to help you as much as you need, and they are willing to penalize you for breaching the rules. It is simple!

Don’t drink any alcoholic beverage unless the certificate holder operating on the aircraft serves it to you. Don’t ruin your flight by inviting frustrating moments like these. The feeling of being held at the airport is the worst experience that no one should go through.

Plus, these days, you’ll be a literal pariah, the subject of internet videos of you looking like a selfish idiot and being fined by the FAA to the tune of $20,00 or worse!

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Can You Get Drunk on a Plane?

People Having Fun While Drinking Alcohol

Yes. Guilty. And scientifically, it’s easier to do so. You can get drunk on a plane, but you should behave yourself.

Getting drunk on a plane can get you cuffed and prosecuted if you cannot control yourself. Disturbing other passengers and abusing flight attendants are not tolerated on the aircraft and are more severely punished than ever.

You cannot drink your alcohol on an aircraft, fair enough. However, most airlines offer alcoholic beverages to passengers. Feel free to drink if served, but don’t exceed your tolerance level.

Also, the attendants have the right not to serve you any alcohol if they determine that you are too drunk to take another drink. Some airlines even limit the quantity of passengers they serve to avoid this situation. And if you have noticed, some airports don’t sell alcohol at certain times of the day.

Minors are also not served alcohol on most flights, but some airlines have an exception to this rule. If the parent or guardian agrees, and the child is of a certain age, they may get an alcoholic drink.

Do you have to pay for the alcohol you drink on the plane?

It differs. You have a greater chance of paying for it on a domestic flight. Most international carriers offer it free to passengers. So, you should inquire or check the airline’s website for more information.

A good rule of thumb is the smaller or cheaper the airline, the greater the chance of charged alcohol or no alcohol. The bottom line is that you can get drunk on a plane, but not from the alcohol you take with you on board. And when drunk, you should control yourself if you don’t want your hands cuffed.

PRO TIP: Thanks to the altitude, it’s easier for people to get drunk while flying. Be extra mindful of your limits!

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How Should You Pack Alcohol?

Proper packaging of alcoholic beverages is crucial. It is to bring it into the plane and prevent leakages that can ruin your lockage. You want the alcohol to make it to the destination in one piece. But how should you do it to pass the security checkpoint and avoid soaking your clothes in the beverage?

  • First of all, leave the alcoholic drink in an open bottle at home.
  • Mini bottles are already leakproof. But to make it even safer, put it in a clear sealable plastic bag. That will ensure the content does not ruin the rest of the luggage, even if the bottle breaks during handling.
  • Next, you need to make the packaging shockproof. Wrap the bottle with a towel, sweater, pants, or shirt to give it proper cushioning in case your bag falls or other luggage is piled. That is the way to avoid breaking the mini alcohol bottles when in transit. And even if they break or leak, the towel or material will quickly absorb the liquid.
  • The last step when packaging alcohol is placement. Its position in the bag can make all the difference. Preferably, put it at the center of the bag and surround it with a pile of clothes. That provides extra cushioning against shock when your carry-on bag or checked luggage accidentally falls.  
  • Alternatively, you can buy commercial carriers to help you bring alcoholic beverages aboard an aircraft and travel with it safely. Such products are designed to ensure the safety of the content.
  • Some airlines also offer alcohol packaging at a fee. You can use their services if you board such services.

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