You can try and drink your own alcohol onboard a flight, but it will cost you…big time.
ne of the perks of flying first or business class is the complimentary and unlimited drink service. There is just something about a Baileys on ice or mimosa served at 30,000 feet in the air that adds an extra flair to a vacation.
If you happen to be flying in the economy or main cabin—it seems worthwhile to engage in the travel hack of packing your own alcohol and skipping the $8 to $14 surcharge for the tiny liquor bottles. After all, there are even portable cocktail-making kits. Though you can bring your own alcohol onboard (being mindful of TSA liquid restrictions), it is prohibited to consume it.
That’s right! Any alcoholic drinks on board must be served by one of the flight attendants.
Why Are Passengers Limited to Only Consuming What Flight Attendants Serve?
Safety is the number one priority for all passengers and crew members. One of the methods used to ensure safety is by enforcing the guideline that passengers can only drink alcohol onboard the aircraft if served by flight attendants, say a flight attendant at SkyWest Airlines who asked that we only call her by her first name, Megan. This allows monitoring of consumption to avoid intoxication and irate, disruptive, or violent behaviors. For additional safety, flight attendants will not serve passengers if they already appear intoxicated during their flight. Travelers also cannot bring alcoholic beverages onboard from airport bars or restaurants, nor can they take served drinks from one flight to the next. So, bottoms up!
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In an article shared by Smithsonian Magazine, drinking onboard aircraft has a complex history. It wasn’t until 1949 that liquor was served on flights, and it was met with myriad restrictions, such as being prohibited when flying over certain states, days, or time frames. Over the years, there has been an imposed two-drink maximum and a notion to remove alcohol sales altogether. As we all can see, neither of those impositions made it very far or affected alcoholic consumption on board in the present day.
The Cost of Drinking Your Own Alcohol Onboard
During the height of the pandemic, airlines lowered ticket prices but suspended food and alcohol services. As we resume travel and these services have been restored, many passengers wonder if this is just a ploy to compensate for the profit loss sustained during the temporary suspension. Truthfully, it was not until the uptick in passengers being fined that I noticed the warning message delivered by flight attendants stating it was prohibited to consume your own alcohol onboard.
Megan shared that while there is not necessarily a limit to how many drinks one can be served because every person handles alcohol consumption differently, flight attendants are trained to stop serving alcohol to a passenger once they display signs of intoxication. Such signs include becoming ill, harassing other passengers, becoming aggressive, and increased voice tones such as loudly talking or yelling. Despite best efforts to monitor, intoxication from sneaking their own drinks or being served by a flight attendant does happen.
In a press release from the FAA last November, alcohol was cited as a key culprit in a spate of unruly passenger behavior that caused travel diversions, interruptions, unsafe environments, and undue stress for the cabin crew. This release went on to share that between the months of January and November 2021, 300 reports were filed. The FAA also announced fines against eight passengers ranging from $8,250.00 to $40,823.00. That is an expensive bar tab! Any one incident with a disruptive passenger can include several federal violations, which is what makes the fines so hefty.
According to Megan, other consequences for drinking your own alcohol onboard can include temporarily revoking flight privileges with a specific airline or landing on the no-fly list if it is not the first reported FAA violation. Passengers can also be removed from the flight if the plane is still at the gate or be met by authorities upon landing. Of course, these types of incidents are often recorded by fellow passengers. With the tendency of social media posts to go viral—unruly passengers can risk other fallouts like damaging their reputations or that of an employer. In conclusion, it is not worth sneaking your own alcohol onboard just to save a few bucks. Enjoy drinks beforehand, onboard, or upon arrival.