Reminder: You can’t drink your own booze on an airplane

Jul 3, 2021

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It’s July Fourth weekend, and Americans are ready to hit the road, the rails, and the skies as they celebrate the long holiday weekend.

But if you’re flying and looking to kick back and party while en route to your vacation destination, there’s an important rule to remember: you’re not allowed to drink your own alcohol on board.

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Technically, passengers can bring booze on board. In fact, mini bottles of alcohol are small enough to be allowed in your carry-on, and there are plenty of airports with shops that sell bottles of beer, wine, or liquor airside — sometimes separate from duty-free.

But according to FAA regulation 14 CFR 121.575, even if someone brings alcohol on board, they can’t drink it:

§ 121.575 alcoholic beverages: (a) No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.

Although this is a longstanding regulation, airlines have recently begun to add lines about it to their boarding announcements following a spate of unruly and violent passenger incidents, many of which have involved intoxicated passengers who were drinking their own alcohol.

American Airlines, for instance, added the announcement in April 2020, a month after it suspended sales of alcohol in the main cabin (also due to the rise in unruly passengers).

Still, while some have blamed those suspended sales for the increase in brought-on-board-booze incidents, that’s not totally accurate: United, which has had alcohol available in coach, added its own boarding announcement in May. Delta, which continues to sell alcohol in economy, also has an announcement about not drinking your own alcohol.

If you do bring something alcoholic on board that you want to consume, there’s one potential loophole: the regulation only specifies that the airline must be the one to serve it to you, not that the airline has to have provided it in the first place.

More: FAA doles out $124,500 more in fines as it continues unruly flyer crackdown

That means that theoretically, you can ask a flight attendant if they’d be willing to take your alcohol from you and serve it back to you. That way, the cabin crew can choose to cut you off if they feel you’re getting too drunk (which is the point of the regulation).

Keep in mind, though, that the flight attendant has every right to decline, and for any reason.

Featured photo by ColorBlind Images/Getty Images

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