Is it Legal to Drink Your Own Alcohol on a Flight?

by Lanee Lee
( November 26th, 2012 )

Illegal to drink your own booze on flights?

On a flight home from visiting the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky, my purse was full of mini-bottles of bourbon. At each distillery, I bought a few as souvenirs. When the drink cart came around, I ordered a glass of ice and ginger ale on the side (whiskey & ginger ale is a great combo, also known as a Jack & Ginger).

This was not the first time I packed my own mini bottles or flask. I popped a Four Roses bourbon open and began to mix my own drink. A flight attendant behind me shouted, “MA’AM!” I just ignored it, thinking she was talking to a passenger behind me. “MA’AM,” even louder this time. At the third one, I turned around.

“You cannot drink your own alcohol on flight,” she said excitedly. My mouth dropped open in shock. She went on to interrogate me like I had a bomb on me about how many more bottles I had. I promised to not drink any more aboard the flight. With that, she spun on her heels and left.

This led me to an obsessive search online to find the answers as the situation seemed outrageous for two reasons: 1. I was embarrassed by the way the flight attendant loudly addressed me and the matter, making the issue very public to all the passengers around me. 2. I figured it was ‘not allowed’ on airlines to ensure they made more beverage sales rather than illegal.

After much research on blogs and airline sites, it was still unclear as to whether it was illegal or just an airline policy. What I did find out is many people had experienced the same thing, all on different airlines.

When I flew to La Paz, Mexico last Saturday, I figured I would clear it up once and for all. Vickie Brown, a spunky flight attendant on Alaska Airlines, would finally put my illegal vs against company policy question to rest.

“So, is it really ILLEGAL to drink your own booze on a plane,” I asked.

“Ohhhhh yeah,” she said.

“It’s a federal offense to open up your own. You can bring your own, but you can’t open it.”

Sneaky drinking on an airplaneShe went on to explain flight attendants have the same responsibilities as a bartender in making sure they don’t over serve their customers. Like a bartender, if they serve someone too much to drink and they have an accident, the passenger can actually sue the flight attendant. If you drink you’re own, the flight attendants have no way to know how much you’ve consumed.

But that wasn’t the real shocker. This explanation why it was illegal to drink your own booze aboard a flight made perfect sense in fact.

Here it comes: If a flight attendant does write you up for it, you can be fined by the FAA (Federal Aviation Association) between $3000 – $5000. My mouth hung open for a good thirty seconds after Brown dropped that tidbit in my lap.

More horrible than the whopping fine is that an alert gets put by your name and every time you fly, you have to endure more scrutiny by security. And forget buying alcohol on any flight.

Lesson learned. It is VERY illegal to drink your own alcohol on a flight.

Thank you Vickie Brown of Alaska Airlines for your help in solving this pressing question I just had to know!

So, now I have some questions for you that I would love to hear from you on.

  • Has this ever happened to you before?

  • Will you still continue to bring & drink your own alcohol on a flight now that you know it is illegal?

From our partners
On November 21st, 2013 at 3:54 pm, ppss said:

wow. just wow. and pure garbage law. i’ve actually done it once—split a fifth between friends, and no one seemed to care. now that i’m aware of this “law” i probably won’t do it again, although i doubt any flight attendants will actually write you up…like seriously? nobody knows about this probably because nobody really gets fined on planes ever.

So, on a different note their reason for this bs is because they have to keep track of the amount you consume??? Well, how about I just turn in my empty bottle so that you know exactly how much i’ve been drinking, eh? or i guess you could just pregame before getting aboard. this law just doesn’t make any sense to me. i’m suspecting they were pushed by the airlines…of course, to make $

On November 27th, 2013 at 5:27 am, Lanee Lee said:

Well, I was shocked like you when I first heard about it, thinking it was just there for airlines to make more money too. But, it’s similar to a bartender’s code of ethics – part of their job is to make sure they don’t overserve you or they could get sued if something happens to the customer leaves. If they can’t monitor how much you’re being served, it could get messy. And they actually can give you a hefty fine and put an alert by your name when you fly again. But, I hear you, it’s annoying as they don’t usually have the kind of whiskey I like! :)

On January 30th, 2014 at 9:46 pm, James Johnson said:

Great article…..not

First – There is no such thing as the FFA Federal Flight Association
It doesnt even exist. The rules of alcohol consumption on a passenger airairline are governed by the FAA.

If the FFA even existed it is termed an association. By definition an assossociation has no governance or even administrative power.

There is no such fine administered by anyone including the FAA. Yes it is prohibited by the FAA to consume your own alcohol on the plane. The flight attendant would stop you if she caught you.

Bug theres no FFA, no fine, and MS Brown if a flight attendant is making up stories. Don’t be so gullible

On January 31st, 2014 at 4:08 am, Lanee Lee said:

James – thanks for the response and the correction of FAA vs FFA. No fine??? Really?? Good to know.

On February 4th, 2014 at 5:45 pm, Zach said:

Do NOT listen to James Johnson. The FAA, or Federal Aviation Administration, is a branch of the US Federal Government and is the governing authority (read: police) of all air travel in the US. They have power, and you bet your a** they’ll fine you.

...I can’t believe what I just read from that guy, I hope I’m not too late.

On February 13th, 2014 at 9:08 pm, Karl said:

The Flight Attendant also has no idea how much someone has been drinking prior to getting on the flight….

On March 13th, 2014 at 2:34 pm, Nathaniel said:

Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR Data is current as of March 11, 2014

Browse Previous | Browse Next

Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
Subpart T—Flight Operations

§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.

(b) No certificate holder may serve any alcoholic beverage to any person aboard any of its aircraft who—

(1) Appears to be intoxicated;

(2) Is escorting a person or being escorted in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.221; or

(3) Has a deadly or dangerous weapon accessible to him while aboard the aircraft in accordance with 49 CFR 1544.219, 1544.221, or 1544.223.

(c) No certificate holder may allow any person to board any of its aircraft if that person appears to be intoxicated.

(d) Each certificate holder shall, within five days after the incident, report to the Administrator the refusal of any person to comply with paragraph (a) of this section, or of any disturbance caused by a person who appears to be intoxicated aboard any of its aircraft.

[Doc. No. 6258, 29 FR 19219, Dec. 31, 1964, as amended by Amdt. 121-118, 40 FR 17552, Apr. 21, 1975; Amdt. 121-178, 47 FR 13316, Mar. 29, 1982; Amdt. 121-275, 67 FR 31932, May 10, 2002]

On September 10th, 2014 at 1:53 pm, B said:

Zach, you need to read exactly what James said, he didn’t say the FAA wasn’t a governing body, in fact he said “The rules of alcohol consumption on a passenger airline are governed by the FAA.” He just said that there is no such thing as the FFA (unless that person what taling about the Future Farmers of America, great high school program by the way).

On January 25th, 2015 at 9:54 pm, drewinky said:

Leaving the KY bourbon trail & standardizing adding ginger ale to said bourbon…as a “Jack & Ginger”...are fightin’ words to a Kentuckian.

On May 28th, 2015 at 8:53 pm, Chris K. said:

With drunk passengers routinely causing problemss on flights, including defecating, assaulting flight crew and fellow passengers, and causing diversions, this law most certainly makes sense. As a flight attendant who was once assaulted by a durnk passenger (who was drinking from his own stash) I will most certainly write you up to the FAA after I confiscate your bottle(s) if I see you doing it after I’ve asked you not to. That said, I’ve had incredibly innocent folks onboard who had no idea it was the law, and I’ve comp’d them drinks and told them to save their own for the hotel. That way, they still get to drink (and not be charged) but I still get to monitor how much they have consumed.

On May 28th, 2015 at 8:56 pm, Chris K. said:

Regarding the FA not knowing how much a person has had prior to flight, this is true. We monitor people during boarding and if you appear to be intoxicated we are required by law to deny you boarding. Happens more frequently than you’d think, especially in certain markets.

On May 28th, 2015 at 9:45 pm, Whatever said:

I think I will drink all my liquor before boarding the plane.. and then buy some more once I am on the plane.. and then take a nice nap until it lands. 😉

On May 29th, 2015 at 1:55 pm, Cristina said:

“no person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.” In other words, you can’t drink it unless a flight attendant serves it to you. FAA regulations section 121.575. Just comply, thats all. simple

Mentions on other sites...
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