Can You Drink Your Duty-Free Liquor On The Airplane?

Whether you're a nervous flyer or you aren't prepared for your vacation to end, some booze on the plane may take the edge off a potentially stressful trip back home. In the past, you may have experienced plane rides where the flight attendant served you some duty-free liquor you had just purchased at the airport. Downing tax-free alcohol before your journey back to the U.S. sounds ideal. In fact, flight attendants on airlines like JetBlue used to provide this service. 

But if you're wondering whether you can still drink duty-free liquor on an airplane as of 2023, you may be disappointed. U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations have put an end to this practice. While passengers are still allowed to bring most duty-free alcohol on the plane, as long as it is in a 3.4-ounce container or less, they can no longer take advantage of sipping on their purchase during the flight. 

Why did some airlines temporarily stop selling alcohol in recent years?

While you can take advantage of the alcohol that an airline may be serving on board, flight attendants are no longer allowed to serve you your own liquor. The JetBlue website states, "You may bring wine, champagne or beer on a flight as long as it is in an unopened container. You are not allowed to consume your own alcohol while on board."

During the pandemic, many airlines stopped offering alcohol to passengers in general. While airlines have finally resumed this service, you may be wondering what led airlines to briefly adopt Prohibition-era-like regulations. When the pandemic began in March 2020, airlines ceased offering food and liquor for purchase as fewer and fewer people were traveling. When travel picked up again, many airlines resumed selling alcohol on board. However, airlines like American and Southwest were some of the last major U.S. airlines to start serving alcohol again due to incidents with aggressive passengers who were not happy about the mask mandate. 

For example, one Southwest passenger hit a flight attendant in the face. Flight attendants may have also faced challenges with unruly passengers using alcoholic beverages as an excuse not to wear their masks. In April 2022, major U.S. flights no longer required passengers to wear masks on flights after a federal judge got rid of the mandate. While Southwest began serving alcohol on flights again on February 16, 2022, American Airlines resumed alcohol sales around the time of this ruling on April 18, 2022.

What type of alcohol is available on each airline?

Although you're unable to drink your own liquor on planes, now that many airlines have dropped the regulations they put in place during the pandemic, you are able to purchase alcohol or get free booze on certain airlines. If you're looking for spirits on airlines like Kuwait Airways, Egyptair, or Air Arabia, you'll have to look elsewhere. Known as dry airlines, these carriers do not serve alcohol on board. Over the years, certain airlines have introduced individualized alcohol regulations, such as Alaska Airlines' Wine Flies Free program.  

United Airlines offers complimentary liquor to passengers in premium sections, including on international flights. Wine and beer are complimentary if passengers are taking certain international flights. In economy class, passengers may be able to purchase other types of liquor. Passengers in economy class on a domestic flight can buy beer or wine. Because factors such as the airline, domestic or international flights, and what class passengers are flying in affect what types of alcoholic beverages are complimentary, you may want to check your airline's website to see what is available. 

If you're someone who won't touch plane food, then some beer, wine, or a cocktail may keep you flying high before landing. And if your airline limits the number of alcoholic beverages available for purchase, then you may just have to wait until you get home to crack open your bottle of duty-free liquor.