A Beginner's Guide To Flying With Alcohol

Whether you’re flying out of Kentucky after picking up goodies on the Bourbon Trail, or muling a precious bottle across the country for a friend, you need to understand the rules that govern flying with liquor. Otherwise, a thirsty TSA agent may confiscate the rare bourbon you just splurged on.

Who makes the rules for traveling with liquor?

In the US, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) governs air travel. The agency was created by the federal government in response to 9/11 to oversee security in all modes of transportation. In 2003, it was folded into the Department of Homeland Security, and now makes up 25% of DHS's workforce.

Most people know TSA as the boys in blue who run security checkpoints at the airport. Aside from aviation, the TSA's also responsible for mass transit systems; freight and passenger rail; highways, pipelines and ports. Most TSA agents are polite and professional, but sometimes you run into a G.I. Joe whose personal mission is to separate passengers from items that aren't approved for travel.

What are TSA's rules for traveling with liquor?

The rules revolve around three things: alcohol by volume (ABV), container size, and carry-ons vs checked bags. Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. Alcohol exceeding 70% ABV (140 proof) is prohibited across the board. Our condolences to the hazmat drinkers. Leave those bottles at home.

Can you bring alcohol on a plane in your carry-on?

Yes you can. Alcohol under 70% ABV (140 proof) is allowed in carry-on bags, provided the container is less than 3.4oz (100ml). For comparison, nips are 1.7oz (50ml), and the common hip flask is 6oz (177ml).

The TSA doesn't specify the amount of containers you can bring on a plane, but they do state, "Mini bottles of alcohol in carry-on must be able to comfortably fit into a single quart-sized bag." Additionally, "The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint."

If you're stopped at a checkpoint for carrying too much weight, the sky isn't falling. You have options.

  • OPTION 1 - Turn over your excess liquor to the agent and head to your gate.
  • OPTION 2 - Exit the checkpoint with your property. Put your containers in your bag. Check it with the airline.
  • OPTION 3 - Exit the checkpoint with your property. Pour out the excess alcohol. Return to the checkpoint and try again.

If you select Option 3, it's always a good idea to ask the agent - or a supervisor - how much they want you to discard, before you exit the checkpoint. Chances are, you'll be dealing with the same agents when you return.

Can you bring alcohol on a plane in your checked bag?

Yes you can. When it comes to checked bags, there are no limitations for alcohol under 24% ABV (48 proof). For alcohol between 24-70% ABV (48-140 proof), there's five-liter maximum per passenger, and the liquor must be stored in unopened retail packaging. That means you can pack six 750ml bottles and still have a little breathing room.

Duty-Free alcohol purchases and connecting flights

If you plan to buy alcohol at the duty-free store after security, you're limited to five liters of alcohol between 24-70% ABV. Ensure the bottles are packed in a transparent, tamper-evident bag by the retailer, and keep the receipt to prove it was purchased within the last 48 hours. For connecting flights in the United States, these rules also apply to carry-on items.

Airline regulations and FAA guidelines for alcohol

The TSA sets the baseline rules, but individual airlines may have additional restrictions. FAA regulations prohibit travelers from consuming alcohol on board an aircraft, unless served by a flight attendant. Flight attendants aren't allowed to serve intoxicated passengers.

Travel accessories for liquor

To ensure hassle-free travel with your favorite spirits, consider investing in travel accessories like the Aged & Ore Bottle Flight. This kit was meant for your carry-on. It includes four 3oz silicone-wrapped glass bottles designed for safe transport, accompanied by a custom EVA travel case.

When it comes to checked bags, bubble chamber packs, are a great solution. These inflatable containers surround your bottles with air to keep them from breaking. If you’ve bought anything from the Taste Select Repeat shop, it was packed in something similar to this.

Before your next trip, double-check the TSA guidelines, airline regulations, and customs rules to avoid any last-minute surprises and ensure a smooth journey with your liquor of choice.



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