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It’s Legal to Bring Your Own Alcohol on Flights. But How Can You Legally Drink It?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Airline cabin service has been drastically reduced around the world. And there’s one staple people seem to really miss:

Wild Turkey bourbon is served during a Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas.

Alcohol. Liquor. Booze. Sauce.

News outlets are shouting that airlines have “banned” alcohol from domestic flights. Such wording seems a little dramatic (and that’s me saying that!), seeing as some airlines are already pouring again. And expanded beverage service will return.

In the meantime, you’re certainly allowed to bring alcohol (up to 140 proof ) onboard a flight — as long as it adheres to the TSA’s rules.

In fact, articles such as “How to Drink on Domestic Flights During the Pandemic” practically encourage BYO(mini)B.

But here’s the problem: they sort of give the impression it’s OK to serve yourself your own cocktails at 35,000 feet.

It’s not. (In the past couple of years, I noticed pre-flight safety briefings almost always include language indicating as much.)

So what’s a thirsty traveler to do?"Airplane"/mini bottles of liquor are seen in a sealed Ziplock bag.

Can a Flight Attendant Serve Your Own Alcohol to You?

How about asking the cabin crew if they’ll do you favor and crack open your bottle of hooch — similar to a restaurant’s corkage service?

Is that permitted?

An FAA spokesman told me:

Federal Aviation Regulations stipulate that any alcohol consumed aboard aircraft must be served by the airline and not poured by the passenger. The regulations do not address who must purchase the alcohol. Airlines are not obligated to allow passengers to consume their own alcohol, and may enact policies that prohibits this activity. Furthermore, any alcohol passengers bring on board would have to comply with TSA rules about the amount of liquids that may be transported through security checkpoints.

So it sounds like it’s not forbidden, right?

A flight attendant for a United States airline told me, “I’ll be happy to bartend for any customer. It’s not against the law. I’d rather have control of [a passenger’s] intake than have them hide it — which might turn into something huge.”

The flight attendant added that people rarely request such service, especially now because “they can’t even ask for ice.”

Blogger Flight Attendant Joe says:

” …you can bring your own alcohol … but you must tell the flight attendant that you have it and WE must pour it for you. Simple, right?”

The perfect scenario conversation between a passenger and flight attendant might go something like this:

Passenger in 17A, “Hi. I have four Jack Daniels minis that I brought on with me. Can I drink them?”

Me, “Yes. But I have to serve the alcohol bottles to you. Give the minis to me and when you order a drink I will serve them to you.”

17A, “Cool. That seems reasonable. Thank you for being so kind.”

Me, “You are welcome. 

He adds, “We always find out when you’re serving yourself your own alcohol. We find out everything. We’re like your mother and you are like our teenager sons. The flight attendant working your flight goes through collecting trash and you hand them two mini bottles that the airline doesn’t even sell.”

(You can read his entire post here. Beware it contains language some people find offensive.)

Fun aside: A retired professional athlete once told me some of his teammates were wine aficionados. They would bring several, regular-sized bottles of (very good and expensive) wine onboard their charter flights and enjoy them during the trip. (This was post 9/11, for reference. Those bottles didn’t fit in Ziploc baggies and flights were chartered from a major US airline.) He didn’t say who exactly opened them up.

Bottoms Up! Right?

Don’t break out a split of bubbly quite yet. Not all flight attendants may feel comfortable serving your booze to you.

“Most flight attendants are very dramatic,” a flight attendant said. “And BYOB probably is not a good idea cause it will lead to a report. And no company is willing to risk negative media coverage.”

Plus, not all airlines even allow flight attendants to serve bottles of liquor you provide. Southwest said a few years back its flight attendants were prohibited from serving passengers their own booze.

Final Approach

We know it’s legal to bring your own alcohol onto a plane (at least, in the USA). Serving yourself isn’t legal. And it’s possible some flight attendants may serve your booze to you.

If you’re that concerned about whether or not you can enjoy some of your own liquor on an upcoming flight, contact the airline and ask their rule.

— Chris

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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9 Comments

  1. Seems to me that handing a flight attendant a bottle, having them open it, and then hand you back a cup with the contents in it would defeat the purpose of the main reasons (as I understand them) for the service cutbacks regarding the possible spread of COVID-19. If it is an airline cost cutting measure (probably part of it), then it would make sense to let them serve you from your own mini bottles. It’s a very interesting debate.

  2. Before the liquid size ban, AA actually allows corkage service in first class.

  3. I have had flight attendants hand me unopened bottles of alcohol and a soft drink can in first class so that I could refresh my own drink. I guess we were both violating regulations.

    I have not flown since early March. Is the only beverage offered bottled water? Do they have cups? It seems like the options for consuming your own hard alcohol might be somewhat limited.

  4. FNT Delta Diamond Reply

    Jet Blue explicitly advertises this. Delta doesn’t. This is pretty common on Jet Blue flights leaving Caribbean islands with local rum industries.

  5. friends traveling FC on AA and UAL are being served alcohol even bloody Mary’s

  6. David Miller Reply

    A work around. Bring a 16-20 oz. empty plastic bottle and your alcohol mini’s thru screening. After passing thru screening , go to sparsely occupied seating area, sit down, open mini (s), pour into plastic bottle. Add preferred mixer (purchased from post screen vendor). Carry onto plane. Enjoy.

    • I appreciate your ingenuity! But I think that’s still against FAA regulations. Let’s grab a drink sometime and discuss! 🙂

  7. No thanks Chris Farley, I will just continue to bring my own alchohol and serve myself ,and I save my bottles to refill by the way , been doing it for many years , never had a problem., of course ,I don’t call the attendant over to watch me pour it either, they can mind their own business and I will take care of mine.

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