Can You Bring Alcoholic Beverages On Airplane Flights?

Ever found yourself gazing wistfully at the bar cart while you sit in your cramped airline seat? Do you find stale pretzels and half of a cup of soda less than ideal? Do you dream of trying out the best rum to mix with Coke in-flight? In case you weren't aware, you are totally allowed to bring alcohol on a flight. You can bring alcohol in your carry-on, in your suitcase, and even in your purse (aka second carry-on). But there's a catch: you can't actually drink it on board.

If you're on a short trip and your only bags are in the overhead compartment, you have a choice to make: Are you more attached to your favorite toiletries or your best booze? Unlike New Orleans at Mardi Gras, there's a very clear list of rules when it comes to alcohol, and the TSA is checking them twice. The agency enforces what's called the 3-1-1 rule to liquids whether it's mini-bar bottles or shampoo. Whatever liquids you bring with you need to fit in a single quart-sized ziplock bag.

You can carry as many 3.4-ounce (or fewer) bottles of alcohol under 140 proof (70% ABV) as you'd like. That is provided they fit comfortably in that one ziplock bag and the TSA agents agree with you. However, mixing your own cocktails during the flight could land you in hot water. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says airline passengers can only drink alcohol that airline staff serve to them during flights.

Alcohol restrictions vary for checked luggage

FAA rules make it nearly impossible to bring beer on a flight since a normal serving far exceeds 3.4 ounces. But if you're checking your bags, the sky's the limit: You can bring as much alcohol under 24 proof (12 % ABV) in your checked bags as you'd like. So beer and wine can be transported in large quantities.

When it comes to heavier spirits, however, you need to travel light. On a U.S. flight, you can bring a total of 5 liters of alcohol with an ABV between 12 and 70% (24 to 140 proof) in your checked luggage. There is a workaround: duty-free purchases. You can transport up to 5 liters of unopened duty-free liquor that you acquired after the security checkpoint. If you bought it abroad before boarding a connecting U.S. flight, it may be allowed in your carry-on bag under certain conditions. And if you're flying from one European Union country to another, you're in luck: 10 liters of spirits are permitted, though the laws of European countries outside the E.U. vary.

Anything over 140 proof is completely off-limits for plane travel (as are a number of surprising foods). If you're mixing your own moonshine, and the ABV's too high, you'll need to transport it in another way. As always, you should check specific policies. The TSA makes the rules, but airlines may have specific restrictions of their own, as they seek to keep their customers safe and everyone cruising at the same steady altitude.