Fancy a Cocktail? On These Dry Airlines, Forget About It

Feb 24, 2018

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Call it the Mile Dry Club. Though for many travelers the process of journeying from Point A to Point B is the perfect opportunity to kick back and enjoy a cocktail or two, there are airlines where liquor is verboten. That makes sense when you consider the cultural context of an airline, which functions as an ambassador of sorts, and more so than most companies tends to answer to the social mores of its flag country.

This is particularly true of airlines based in predominantly Muslim countries, where consumption of alcohol is often prohibited by a combination of Islamic law and plain old tradition. However, don’t assume that just because an airline’s headquarters is in a Muslim-majority country that alcohol won’t be served. Case in point Emirates, which has invested $500 million in wines and maintains a vast wine-storage facility in France. According to a spokesman, Emirates “actually offers complimentary alcoholic beverages across all classes in the air and lounges on the ground.” Rival Etihad, based in nearby Abu Dhabi, and Qatar Airways, the third member of the “Gulf Three” group of big international airlines from the Gulf, also serve alcohol. So does Oman Air, in the neighboring sultanate of Oman. Alcoholic beverages are served on Royal Jordanian and Bahrain-based Gulf Air too.

Airlines from the Maghreb, the North African countries at the western edge of the Muslim world, do serve alcohol as well. Morocco does in fact even make wine, and its flag carrier Royal Air Maroc serves a selection of Moroccan and French wines and various alcoholic drinks. Neighboring Algeria’s flag carrier Air Algerie, which like RAM flies to North America, serves alcohol but may hold off during the month of Ramadan, as does Tunisia’s Tunisair.

At the eastern end of the Muslim world, the two biggest long-haul international airlines from Malaysia and Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines and  Garuda, serve alcohol.  Malaysia Airlines serves alcohol on flights over three hours and Garuda Indonesia offers a range of “vintage wines, champagnes, cocktails” and liqueurs.

Now, in a few cases airlines clearly state their alcohol policy in the conditions of carriage section of their websites, but in others it can be a little more ambiguous.  Herewith the airlines that are a teetotaler’s dream — but for lovers of the drink, likely quite the opposite. And for an added twist, some of them will look the other way if you just so happen to have a bottle of the forbidden stuff in your carryon and feel like opening it.

1. Saudia

The policy on alcohol for the flag carrier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is pretty cut and dry: “Saudia does not serve or permit passengers to carry or drink alcoholic beverages on its flights,” its website clearly states. Saudi-based low-fare airline Flyadeal and flynas also ban alcohol (interestingly, Flyadeal has rows reserved for female passengers.)

2. Egyptair

A spokesperson for Egyptair says, “We don’t serve alcohol on our flights, however we are happy to provide set ups to passengers on select routes.” In practical terms, this brings that if you BYOB, a flight attendant will be happy to uncork the wine or open the beer you  bought, something that isn’t possible on stricter airlines like Saudia.

3. Iran Air

Alcohol is not served aboard Iran Air flights, nor is it available aboard any other airline based in the Islamic Republic, such as Iran Aseman Airlines and Mahan Air.

 4. Royal Brunei

The flag carrier of the tiny, hyper-wealthy and majority-Muslim nation in Southeast Asia serves London, Dubai and several Asian destinations with a modern fleet that includes Boeing 787 Dreamliners — but does so with no alcohol on board. You can BYOB, though.

5. Kuwait Airways

Kuwait Airways flies dry to destinations including New York’s JFK, its only US stop. However, crews have been known to let passengers drink their own and to even provide glasses upon request.

Lunch in Kuwait Airways' first class — with water. (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)
Lunch in Kuwait Airways’ first class — with water. (Photo by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy)

6. Pakistan International Airlines

While it’s not likely you’ll be flying PIA anytime soon, after it suspended flights to the US in late 2017 — it still flies to Toronto, though — you should know there is no alcohol on board, nor is bringing your own okay: “You are not allowed to consume alcohol aboard an aircraft (whether purchased as duty free or otherwise obtained),” say the airline’s conditions of carriage.

7. Air Arabia

Air Arabia, a low-cost carrier from the United Arab Emirates, puts things quite bluntly: “Smoking and alcohol are prohibited on board Air Arabia aircraft.” Period.

8. Jazeera Airways

Jazeera is Kuwait’s largest private airline (Kuwait Airways is the country’s flag carrier.) Alcohol isn’t served on board, but you can take it with you. According to the airline, “alcoholic beverages, when in retail packagings, containing more than 24% but not more than 70% alcohol by volume, in receptacles not exceeding 5L, with a total net quantity per person of 5L” can be taken as carry-on luggage.

9. Turkish Airlines (domestic)

No alcohol is served on Turkish Airlines’ domestic flights, but it is on international flights and in its lounges. Contrary to some information, Turkish does not suspend alcoholic beverage service on flights into dry countries like Saudi Arabia.

10. Iraqi Airways

Alcohol is not served, but if you stash the booze in your suitcase, that’s cool. “You can take [liquor] in your checked bag as far as local regulations allow you to travel with an alcoholic beverage,” a spokesperson said. Just make sure to pack the bottles properly so they don’t break.

Photo by ColorBlind Images/Getty Images

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