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Can You Drink Your Own Alcohol on a Flight?

Food + Drink Airports + Flying
by Nickolaus Hines Mar 22, 2019

The TSA is strict when it comes to liquids. Anyone who’s flown in the last decade knows all liquids must be in 3.4-ounce or less sized bottles. A mini bottle of alcohol, conveniently, is around 1.7 ounces. Which has led plenty of budget-conscious fliers to wonder if it’s legal to bring and drink your own alcohol on a flight to avoid paying for the expensive in-flight drinks.

While you can certainly get your minis through security, drinking them is another issue entirely. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations state that “No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.”

Frontier, Alaska Airlines, and others directed me to these guidelines when asked about personal alcohol consumption mid-flight. Southwest noted that the regulation is listed in a disclaimer on its drink menu that reads, “In accordance with FAA regulations, customers are prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages onboard that are not served by Southwest Airlines.”

Yet for close readers of the regulation, there appears to be a loophole. It states that passengers can only drink alcohol that’s served to them by someone from the airline. This led to reports of JetBlue being a BYOB airline so long as you handed your drink to the flight attendant to open it for you. This way, the line of thinking goes, the flight attendant can still make sure a passenger doesn’t over consume. Only, according to the FAA, it’s not as simple as asking nicely.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 has a section called “Enhanced Training For Flight Attendants.” Alcohol safety is a big part of said enhanced training “because most passengers do not understand the amplified effects of alcohol in a pressurized aircraft at cruising altitude,” and flight attendants need to manage anyone who appears intoxicated. Not being in control of the alcohol a passenger is drinking is an easy way to lose the ability to manage them.

In short, this means that passengers are not allowed to consume alcohol that they personally brought aboard the plane on any flight required to follow FAA regulations. Think of the plane like a bar with a roving bar cart. You can’t drink your own alcohol in a bar, and you can’t do it on a plane, either (even if you have those little plane-friendly cocktail kits).

“Bottom line is alcohol must be provided and served by the air carrier,” Ian Gregor, communications manager for the FAA Pacific Division, tells Matador in an email. “We don’t allow BYOB in air carrier operations.”

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