Because domestic airlines like to charge for something a tad stronger than apple juice, I get asked this every so often. Sometimes, I wonder if this question begs another question, like you know, if you’re an alcoholic or something, but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with enjoying life.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save a few dollars, but most international, long-haul flights on most airlines serve free alcohol onboard as part of their drink service. In particular, Singapore Airlines is a personal favorite for keeping the booze flowing. Though it’s also the same place where I learned it might be better to abstain from that extra drink from time to time. (That’s a story that’s not getting published on the web.)
You can bring as many minis as you want in your carry-on, as long as it conforms to current liquid restrictions. That’s about 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters per bottle, which also means it has to fit in a quart-sized plastic bag. So while theoretically you can fill it up full of booze, you’re going to have to make some pretty hard decisions about drinking a gin and tonic or making sure you have enough toothpaste. Personally, I suggest the toothpaste.
In regards to checked-in baggage, there are actually a couple of restrictions. On the whole, though, you can’t bring extremely hard alcohol onboard at all—anything with more than 70% alcohol content because it will probably nuke the plane as well as your brain cells—because it then falls under hazardous materials. The TSA makes it pretty clear on what’s acceptable and what’s not:
You can’t take alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol content (140 proof), including 95% grain alcohol and 150 proof rum, in your checked luggage. You may take up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% per person as checked luggage if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask.
In other words, it’s permissible to be an alcoholic within reason. Each airline also has their own personal policies, though they pretty much adhere to current security regulations. It should go without saying, but you *should* probably be allowed to legally drink before you bring it on the plane.
That said, downing it before you get to your destination isn’t the worst idea. Depending on where you’re going, it may not be kosher to carry liquor so you’ve got to factor that in as well. Far, far down on my list of things to do? Stumbling into Saudi Arabia with a bottle of rum in my hand.
For the most part, though, whether or not you can bring your own alcohol onboard isn’t the big deal. It’s really about whether you’re allowed to drink your own booze aboard. According to the FAA's Federal Aviation Regulations, Sec. 121.575, “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.
In fact, you could be fined for violating federal law if you decide to start mixing up your own cocktails. Wanderlust and Lipstick reports that you could be fined anywhere from $3,000-$5,000, so it might be a good idea to just pay for your own drinks. Or better yet, ask the flight attendant to make it for you? This is pretty much what JetBlue suggests to avoid the problem.
While Frontier and United state you can’t consume your own alcohol aboard, there’s nothing to suggest that it’s possible to get around this by having a flight attendant serve you your own supplies. American, Alaska, Delta and Southwest doesn’t state anything specific on the matter, but it’s probably good idea to ask before busting out the flask. Besides it’s not like flight attendants aren’t people either. Sometimes they need a drink every now and then, too.
(For what it’s worth, some flight attendants are some of the craziest people I’ve ever met. I once threw down shots with an Emirates flight attendant in the back of a Jordanian taxi on the way to the airport and I can, for sure, tell you it wasn’t my suggestion.)