It’s holiday travel time again, which means muddling through brutal flights in tiny seats next to sweaty mouth-breathers with no concept of personal space. But can you muddle up your own mojito with booze you brought yourself to get through it? Not really, but sort of!
Good news: You can definitely take alcohol on a plane. The general rule from the Transportation Safety Administrator is that you can bring booze on the flight with you — in carry-on and/or checked bags — with some caveats. Booze is (mostly) just another liquid (depending on the proof a.k.a. fire hazard), so as long as you follow the liquid rules, you’re permitted the following:
For carry-on, per the TSA website:
·Travelers may carry as many 3.4 ounce bottles of liquid (mini bottles of liquor are 1.7 ounces) that fit comfortably in one, quart sized, clear plastic, zip-top bag. Comfortable means that the bag will seal without busting at the seams. One bag is permitted per passenger.
· Liquids (including alcohol) purchased after clearing the security checkpoint are permitted on the aircraft.
For checked baggage:
· Any amount of alcohol greater than 3.4 ounces must be packed in checked baggage.
· Alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol content (140 proof), including 95% grain alcohol and 150 proof rum, cannot be packed in checked luggage.
· Travelers may take up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% per person as checked luggage if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask.
· Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol content are not subject to hazardous materials regulations.
So here’s where it gets tricky. You’re allowed to bring it on the flight, but you’re not supposed to drink it. Per the TSA:
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.”
Flight attendant Celessa Dietzel backed this up earlier this year when she told Business Insider that yes, you can bring the booze on the flight, but drinking it will net you up to an $11,000 fine from the Federal Aviation Administration. Dietzel said it was the one thing she wishes everyone knew about flying, which implies that it happens often enough to give them some serious headaches.
Dietzel claims drinking your own booze is just “bad etiquette,” too, but let’s leave etiquette out of any conversation about an industry who has done more than any other to degrade the customer experience at our expense, shall we?
Moving on: So far, we’ve determined that, in theory at least, while on a plane, we can only drink the alcohol the airline serves us. But don’t despair. There are other options, with varying degrees of risk. They are as follows:
Do It on the Sly and Take Your Chances
This would be the most risky option of all and we don’t advise it. Sure, it’s easy to envision how one might pull off this heist. Order a soda or mixer of some kind and a cup of ice, wait for the attendant to pass by, then speedily dump in the contents of your mini bottle. Alternately, smuggle the bottle into your pants or purse and down it in the bathroom. Pull this off, and it’s pretty sweet move — you just dodged a $12 Jack and Coke. Just hide your empty bottles, k?
But what if your seatmate is a total narc? What if your flight attendant is an all-knowing omniscient god, and he/she totally did see and is waiting to stick it to you? That happened to this woman, who tried to first finish her mini of vodka before boarding, but didn’t have time. So once seated on the flight, she then decided to spike some orange juice with the remaining half of the bottle. She was busted, and had security waiting for her upon landing. Worth noting: The flight attendant told the woman she couldn’t drink her own booze and she did it anyway, and she never even got to consume the drink. Remember, the saying is better to ask forgiveness instead of permission, not better to ask forgiveness and permission. Pick one!
Another possibility: No one sees you sneak the booze in your drink, but you get too drunk and call attention to yourself, at which point they notice the empty bottles they know they didn’t serve to you. Probably because you didn’t hide the empty bottles, dig?
Some passengers have apparently asked their flight crew if they can drink the booze they brought with them, and apparently at least once in human history, the flight crew has said, “Yeah, sure, knock yourself out.” Blogger Julian Mark Kheel at TPG (The Points Guy) said it happened in this calendar year. He writes:
…it’s always possible you’ll have a flight crew that doesn’t care if you want to drink your own alcohol. On TPG’s recent Egypt Air flight from New York (JFK) to Cairo, Egypt (CAI), he and his father asked a flight attendant if it was okay to drink beers they had brought along — her response was “I couldn’t care less. Do what you want.” So as with all things in travel, your mileage may vary, but you should know the rules in advance and not expect an exception, even if you might end up getting one.
This BYOB policy appears to be case for some “dry” airlines like Egypt Air and Kuwait Airways.
Apparently JetBlue is some kind of genius airline that has figured out a loophole that lets you drink the booze you bring on the plane if it’s under 24 percent alcohol. All you have to do is ask them to serve it to you. No, really.
According to the airline’s guidelines, “You may bring wine, champagne or beer on a flight for consumption during the flight if it is in an unopened container. If you’d like to drink the alcohol you carry on, you may give it to one of our in-flight crewmembers, and they will be happy to serve it to you.”
Get Creative With the Airline’s Booze
This guide over at Jet Set on how to make your very own in-flight cocktails for cheap is great, but also very confusing. It tells you to not only bring your own booze on board and sneak it into a beverage (risky!), but how to gather ingredients from bars and restaurants in the airport, take them on the plane, and then proceed to go to town mixing yourself up a “bespoke drink” that matches your “exact flavor craving” to “kill time” on the flight.
The idea here is that if you bring your own cheaper carry-on booze, forage ingredients that are most likely garnishes or free, and then snag the free mixers the airline will offer (like ginger ale or cranberry juice) then you’re good to go.
This makes sense from a cost perspective. A mini bottle of Tito’s Vodka is probably about $3 in the real world. On a United Airlines flight, that same mini bottle is $7.99. The savings are obvious, but the sneaking seems super risky and attention-drawing given the fact that unless you’re on JetBlue, you might get busted.
Here’s a better approach: Just buy the straight liquor from the airline, take the mixer, and then add these free foraged items in yourself, to make yourself a fancier, better drink. Nothing wrong with that.
On United Airlines drink menu, for instance, a “craft cocktail” like a Moscow Mule is $9.99 — that’s vodka, lime juice, ginger beer and cane sugar (the way they make it). The vodka, again, is $7.99. This approach saves you a buck or two a drink, and no one is judging. What you then must grapple with is whether the two bucks you save is worth squirreling for lime juice or cane sugar from an airport Hard Rock Café? Only you can answer that.
That said, mixing up a bespoke cocktail yourself with their booze and your found objects does sound inventive. Jet Set spoke to a woman named Lauryn who revealed her method:
“It started as a joke with an elaborate Bloody Mary,” she told Jet Set. “My dad bought me the mini bottles of vodka and I prepared a lunch bag filled with garnishes of bacon and celery. I foraged Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and hot sauce from a Legal Seafood and salt and pepper packets from a McDonalds, both at Logan Airport. It became a fun game for me.”
Such crafters document their work at #gourmetsnackpack on Instagram and it goes something like this:
Here are more nifty recipes for in-flight booze you can enhance using easily procured ingredients or by simply combining theirs in creative ways. Red wine and Coca-Cola over ice, anyone? (No.)
That said, remember this: These options are for how to be happily buzzed on a flight so you can put up with Joe Public in a pleasantly blissed-out way. We don’t advise you to get blind hammered and be one of those drunk assholes who have to be physically restrained or get kicked off the plane or try to open the plane door mid-flight. Now that’s bad etiquette.